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.
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.