Compassionate Care

Making Gains With Speech Therapy

Speech and language problems make it hard for a child to succeed in school. A child may have trouble understanding, following directions or answering questions. Language problems make reading and writing harder. Children who have trouble talking with peers have difficulty making friends. These challenges are all barriers to education. But speech language pathologists can help.

Speech therapists at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Erie work with each patient to find a form of communication that helps them succeed across all settings. “Success is different for every patient and family, depending on their goals and what they wish to get out of therapy,” said Bridget Muldowney, speech language pathologist at the hospital. “Ultimately, we want to find functional communication, which could be using first words, understanding language, using a communication device, etc. We determine which manner of functional communication works best, depending on the child’s challenges and goals.”

For Audrey, success came shortly after beginning therapy. “Before starting therapy, Audrey could not communicate what she wanted or needed,” said her mom, Lily. “She would have temper tantrums and other behavioral issues.” After learning ways to communicate both verbally and nonverbally, Audrey is “basically a different kid,” Lily added. “We have now given her tools to limit her frustration and allow her to succeed. She is so much happier.”

Liam is another patient who found the tools to succeed through speech therapy. “Speech therapy has given him more independence,” said his mom, Stacey. “It’s truly given him a voice.” Liam is nonverbal and uses an eye-gaze device to help communicate his needs, likes and dislikes. Although he may not speak, he can now greet friends, pick what song to listen to or tell someone if he is hungry or thirsty.

“We help kids reach their highest potential by targeting specific areas for growth,” added Nicole Lewis, speech language pathologist at the Erie hospital. “We have to determine what kind of support they need to reach their highest potential both socially and academically.”