music · slice of life

Pomp and Circumstance

Isabelle and Joanna at the piano during today's session.
Isabelle and Joanna at the piano during today’s session.

I’m going to tell you something parents of typically developing kids don’t know. Therapists, whether they are speech therapists, occupational therapists, or music therapists, become your child’s friends.  Maybe that sounds sad to you.  And in a way it is.  But the truth of the matter is that therapists who help your child from an early age take the place of play dates.

Just prior to Isabelle’s Childhood Apraxia of Speech, or CAS, diagnosis in April 2013, she received two speech sessions and one OT session each week. As soon as the diagnosis was given, more therapies came into the mix.  At the height of 2014, Isabelle had between six to eight therapy sessions each week. Speech three times a week, occupational therapy two – three times a week, music therapy once a week, and physical therapy every other week.  That kind of intensive therapy schedule doesn’t leave a lot of time for play dates. I wish she had spent more of the past year playing dolls or building with Legos alongside a friend. However, I was told her three-year-old year would be a year of growth in terms of her speech development if we devoted our time to intensive therapy and a lot of home practice.

What is an appropriate gift for someone like Joanna? I had no clue. There's no dollar amount that would be enough. Therefore, I wrote her a heart-felt letter.
What is an appropriate gift for someone like Joanna? I had no clue. There’s no dollar amount that would be enough. Therefore, I wrote her a heart-felt letter.

Isabelle’s final day of music therapy was today.  She wasn’t discharged per se (i.e., her music therapist is transitioning to being a full-time music therapist within the Early Intervention system). However, it became a graduation day or sorts, so we celebrated.

Isabelle’s music therapist, Joanna, began working with her in April 2013.  Joanna began co-treating with Isabelle’s speech and occupational therapists right after the CAS diagnosis. That month, Isabelle was producing 31 words (i.e., substitutions and approximations counted for words back then. “Ba” counted for seven of her 31 words: baby, bottle, sheep, block, cup, bed, and bus). Three months later her word productions more than doubled! Part of that massive growth was due to the CAS diagnosis and strategies we implemented to help her speak.  The other part of that growth was due to Joanna, who helped Isabelle turn her sound productions into words.

Over the past two years, we’ve seen Joanna nearly every week.  She has helped our family incorporate music into routines, in addition to helping Isabelle produce better sounds and words.  She’s written songs to help Isabelle with concepts (e.g., up and down, on and off, open and close), for motor planning (i.e., “Hand on Top” was a song to help Isabelle hold her spoon correctly when self-feeding), and to help her participate in holidays (i.e., a simple thankfulness song for Thanksgiving to the tune of “Hot Cross Buns”).  She introduced Isabelle to the drums, piano, guitar, xylophone, and more.  I could go on, but I think you understand, Joanna has impacted Isabelle’s development in numerous ways.


Perhaps that’s why my eyes got misty when Joanna presented Isabelle with a certificate of graduation from music therapy.  She read it aloud to Isabelle, which made me emotional.  We have come SO FAR.  I know there’s more work to do in terms of Isabelle’s speech and motor planning. Thanks to wonderful therapists, like Joanna, we are in a much better place today than where we were two short years ago.


Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.

19 thoughts on “Pomp and Circumstance

  1. You and Isabelle and your husband and the wonderful therapists who have worked with Isabelle have so much to celebrate. I imagine the goodbyes are bittersweet. Yay that Isabelle is making so much progress that she needs less support- but hard to step back from such an intense and personal bond.

  2. This post brought tears to my eyes. Congratulations to all of you! And just as you will cherish the diploma that will always evoke memories, I’m certain Joanna will cherish your letter – a very appropriate gift.

  3. This is exceptionally beautiful and how it hits with me today. Letting go of our “friends” has been the theme of this week and it’s all tears for us moms. I was writing a piece similar but I just can’t my words ready to explain my gratitude to the therapists who devote their life to this. It’s a calling and I never even knew there was music therapy! Your letter is lovely and heartfelt. Congrats to Isabelle (and mom and the family)! Thank you for writing this slice today. I needed to read it.

  4. How wonderful that you have so many options available to work with Isabelle. It is amazing the growth she has had but I know you, she, they have worked so hard to achieve. Congrats to Isabelle!

  5. Wonderful news, but I know it’s sad to say goodbye anyway. I think Therapists are magical people, knowledgeable, always enthusiastic, warm and loving. Good for you and Marc for making it happen, and for dear Isabelle for keeping on.

  6. This is such a happy tearful post. As a mother, I can’t even imagine trying to schedule all that therapy but I know you do what you have to do. Congrats to everyone!

  7. Bittersweet tears here as well. The numbers in the data clearly speaks to Isabelle’s growth and yet the impact on her quality of life is so clearly shown in the relationships from all who have helped. Thanks for sharing about some of those in Isabelle’s “village” . . . Congratulations ALL!

  8. What a gift to have music therapy! I am constantly amazed at how proactive you are in getting Isabelle the help she needs. Who knew? Music therapy. But it makes so much sense to brain development, sound, words, rhythm. I’m sure Joanna received as much as she gave. That’s why she does what she does.

  9. Everything about this post resonates with our experiences as well. Congratulations and I’m glad you took the time to celebrate. I am tearing up right now thinking of all of the amazing therapists who have come into Liam’s life, and that he stands on all of their shoulders in who he is today. I have made sure to thank each one in a very special way. They are his angels and we have been fortunate to have so many that have taken their work and him so very seriously. Thank you for this poignant reminder of these special individuals who work with our children.

  10. Such a beautiful post! I can tell that Joanna means a lot to you and that she has helped your daughter tremendously. Glad to hear your daughter is growing and improving so quickly! 🙂

  11. Congratulations to all of you and especially Isabelle for the progress she has made. She is so lucky to have the love and support all around her.

  12. Happy tears your post gave me. What a lovely tribute to Joanna and to parenting. Making time for the intensive therapy schedule and doing the work as a team for Isabelle both are love in action.

  13. This is a beautiful Slice for a beautiful therapist. I bet she truly didn’t know how much she has touched your family’s life. She knows now.

    Thanks for sharing more of Isabelle’s story with us today, too. Each time I learn more about her work in therapy, the more impressed I am. She’s quite a girl.

  14. You are so right about the role that therapists play in the lives of young children (and their parents). My daughter recently referred to her speech pathologist as one of her really favorite friends. The right match between a child and a specialist can really move mountains. I’m so glad Isabelle and her therapist were such a great match. Happy graduation day.

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