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Seeing with Sound: Helping Children With Speech Difficulties

Updated on April 16, 2014
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Grand Old Lady is embracing her life with enthusiasm and interest in learning all things new. She loves her dogs and her family.

The first time Marie Chris Palafox – Pascua, owner of CommuniCare Therapy Center for Children, met Enzo Durante, then three years old and with Down Syndrome, he had behavioral problems. “He needed occupational therapy before we could address his speech skills,” she says.

Enzo stayed in her school on Stockholm Street, BF Homes for one year, after which he showed visible improvement. With his newly acquired skills (including mimicking, which Pascua says is a large part of learning), he was moved to CommuniCare Life Skills Development Center on Aguirre St. in the same village, which Pascua also owns. “You could consider this a ‘transition school.’ The children are being prepped for regular school, or come here in addition to regular school,” she says.

My article, published in HIPP (Happy, Intelligent, Progressive Parenting) Magazine
My article, published in HIPP (Happy, Intelligent, Progressive Parenting) Magazine | Source

First Word

Marie was deeply invested in Enzo’s case. He still didn’t speak after one year, but she kept believing. Several strategies were applied, but progress could not be measured. Then one day, Enzo looked at Marie out of the blue and said “ball”. Marie broke down and cried.

“Children feel empowered when they can speak,” she says. “They realize it is a way of getting what they want.” Enzo saw a ball in a transparent zip lock bag, and he asked for it. It was handed to him like a trophy. Now six, Enzo, just before our interview, asked if he could go to the bathroom.

Do you have a child, or know a child with speaking difficulties?

Do you have a child, or know a child who has speaking difficulties?

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My article published in HIPP Magazine
My article published in HIPP Magazine | Source

A New Profession

Speech Pathology is a relatively new profession in the Philippines. The first school to offer this course was the University of the Philippines, and Marie was in its first batch of graduates in 2000. “We were only 23,” she says, “and a number of them went to the States after graduation.”

Only this year, the University of Santo Tomas opened a Speech Pathology course. There is also the Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists (PASP), with Board Director Ken Kristoffer Tort. The PASP certifies that a professor is a graduate of speech pathology and attends regular seminars. Parents should make sure their speech pathologist is PASP accredited.

Because the course is relatively new, PASP holds regular seminars by members who have gone abroad or attended a convention to share what they learned. PASP also invites speakers from overseas. To augment her work, Pascua has taken classes at UP in dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and reading, which has also become a component for communication for special children. Plus she cites the need for professors to do their own research.

My name (circled in red) among contributors. They didn't include my full byline, Mona Sabalones Gonzalez. It is just Mona Gonzalez. But my full byline is in the article itself.
My name (circled in red) among contributors. They didn't include my full byline, Mona Sabalones Gonzalez. It is just Mona Gonzalez. But my full byline is in the article itself. | Source

Even for the children, learning needs to be constant. “Many parents of special children see school as a way of giving their child activities to do,” Pascua says. “But I tell them that it is more than that, it is an investment in their future. Parents worry that when they die, no one will care for their special child. But with new skills taught early in the child’s life, possibilities are maximized.”

Pascua says parents must act immediately if they sense that something is amiss. “At this stage, speech is most easily learned, whether a child is developmentally delayed or not. If a child starts too late, it is harder for him to learn to speak.”

Cover of HIPP Magazine. The article was featured in the Dec.2009-Jan. 2010 issue, but the story remains relevant today.
Cover of HIPP Magazine. The article was featured in the Dec.2009-Jan. 2010 issue, but the story remains relevant today. | Source

A Larger Need

A child with speech difficulties will (usually) have problems in larger areas too.” At CommuniCare’s 350 school population, most have Down Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder,” Tort concurs. Children perhaps with ADHD, swallowing difficulties, hearing problems, or even with a cleft lip or palate among others, may have speech difficulties. Tort, aside from serving as PASP board director, is involved with UP Manila’s Clinic for Therapy Services (CTS) , where he supervises SLP interns, and is Chief speech-language Pathologist of We Speak Specialized Intervention, Inc. in Ortigas Center, Pasig. He is also a consultant SLP at the Alternative Learning Resource School – Philippines (ALRES-Philippines, a special school) in Quezon City.

The muscles used for swallowing chewing and breathing are the same muscles used in speech. “Children with Down Syndrome have weak muscles, even oral muscles,” Pascua says. “When they drink milk from a bottle, there is spillage and drool because these muscles are hard to control – the same muscles used for speech. And for some children, a cerebral problem may affect their lungs, so they have weak cries. You need air to make sounds. When older, there may be trouble with prolonged phonation.”

My article, encircled, on page 66
My article, encircled, on page 66 | Source

Dealing With Disorder

“The hardest thing for parents to deal with is denial,” Pascua says. “But the longer they go through that, the more precious time a child loses. The first seven years are critical to learning, especially for language. When parents come to CommuniCare, they are past denial. The good thing is they meet the parents of their child’s classmates, become friends, and are one another’s support system.”

Pascua says that a job like hers is filled with laughter and tears. “You name it, we teachers have had it,” she says. “My hair has been pulled by children, I have gotten punched, because like everyone else, sometimes the children have moods,” she says. “So there are times the teachers – not the children – have time out.”

Date of issue when article was published
Date of issue when article was published | Source

Tort agrees: “Being a speech-language pathologist is tough. You need energy, dedication, commitment and skill in order to provide the best service possible. Each time I feel tired and think of giving up, I think of my students – how they laugh, how they smile, how they kiss and hug me each time they come. And then I would know that the exhaustion is all worth it.”

Marie relates, “One teacher asked the children to name something yellow. One child said, ‘mango’ and then the next child said, ‘mango juice.’ Another time, at a marine aquarium, one child noticed how one fish seemed different from all the rest. He asked, ‘Mama, does that fish have Down Syndrome, too?’”

Interventions for Speech Sound Disorders in Children

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    • grand old lady profile image
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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Chef de Jour for your kind words, and the share is most appreciated:)

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you for this informative and enlightening article. I worked many years with autistic young adults, some with speech, others without and with the help of speech therapists managed to create drama and plays for them to perform in. Some of these students were given speech therapy at an early stage in their lives and it really helped, others were not so lucky. You're right - a young child can learn so much more in the developing years. Any progress no matter how small is valueable.

      Voted up and shared.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Prarie Princess for your encouraging and wise words:)

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 2 years ago from Canada

      @GrandOldLady, I appreciate you writing this article, to help parents that may be concerned about their child. As a teacher, I did see students who were not helped early, and they did very poorly in school. Unfortunately, there are sometimes more students needing services than services available. This is a important job!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Mr. B. Leekley. I haven't heard your voice but had the pleasure of reading one of your hubs. It was rich, interesting, useful and helpful to me and I a sure, many others. No matter how we pronounce or speak, one thing I am sure of, you have a powerful voice in your attitude to life, as expressed through your writing. Thank you for visiting and for reading:)

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I am finally learning, at age 71, why all of my life people have had difficulty understanding me. It is because what I say is quite different from what I hear myself say. When I am dictating to the voice recognition program Dragon Naturally Speaking and it types a word that is not what I said, I can play it back before I correct it. I can hear that a word that I thought I said very clearly I actually said with a dropped final syllable or a slurred letter, etc. I wonder if some speech therapy when I was little -- even from a parent or other amateur with persistent, patient encouragement and a tape recorder -- might have let me have the life of a clear speaker. Up, Useful, and Interesting.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Suzanne Day, yes, the part about the fish was very interesting, since the child was perhaps recognizing similarities between the fish and himself and coming to certain conclusions. Animals are great teaching tools and children learn so much from them.

      God bless, Mona

      CraftytotheCore, it's wonderful that you had attentive doctors who spottd what was impeding your child's speech, and addressed it immediately. I'm sure you son felt tremendously empowered after he could communicate. What a wonderful parent you are.

      Blessings and besos, Mona

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      I have personal experience with this as my son has Autism. He does have speech issues. He was diagnosed with phonological disorder when he was 4. We've had him enrolled in private speech therapy which cost over $160 every two days and it wasn't covered by insurance. It helped a lot but I couldn't afford it any longer. He goes to public school now and they offer speech to him during school hours which is very helpful.

      We had his hearing checked and he was fine. But the speech therapist said he couldn't pronounce the letter r and she suggested that we take him to an Ear Nose Throat doctor. We did that last year and he has his tonsils and adnoids removed. It helped him a lot with speech articulation.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      It's good to hear about positive learning outcomes for these children. I especially liked the last bit about the fish! Voted useful.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      DDE I guess the human body is pretty fascinating. However, a voice is so precious. The empowerment it gives a child is something we take for granted. And the ability to hear the voice of someone you love is such a wonderful gift.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Amazing but true other sense take over when one of five don't perform properly interesting and informative.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you so much, jpcmc, for your kind words. I was amazed at the commitment of the teachers that I wrote about. Kudos to all of you, who see what is good and great in little children that others may see through diaphanous blinders covering their eyes and hearts.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 3 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I had the opportunity to do my practicum at the UP CDC's special class. It was a very illuminating experience. As we slowly unlock more information about development, the more we can help more people. This hub is worthy of praise.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Kevin, I think it was something about compensation, communication and ears. And then, there are the elephants....

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 3 years ago

      grand old lady,

      You are not rambling - what were you saying?

      Kevin

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you very much, The Examiner-1:). It was also a revelation to me that people who can't speak may actually have muscular problems in their mouths. We take our ability to speak so much for granted, and seeing children struggle with something like this does leave us grounded. Perhaps I will also take time to listen to the sounds of animals and insects and the leaves when the wind blows. A life without sound would seem to have so much deprivation. But then, deaf people do compensate in other ways and communicate...I ramble....

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 3 years ago

      This was very interesting, once I began reading I could not stop. I watched the video and it made me think about how I have studied how my own muscles work and observed the sounds made by other people, animals and even non-living objects. I voted this up plus others.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you, Ms Dora:). I remember at the school observing a child practicing his walking with his Dad at his side. The Dad was so positive and happy with every little step the boy took. I guess loving special children will require changing expectations and having new reference points for progress, then you can really appreciate every tiny step of progress because you know the child worked so hard to get there. A tiny step for them is like a first leap for others:). Both would require equal effort.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you for sharing these insights on a matter that we know so little about. I cannot imagine not being able to speak, or having a child not able to speak. I admire the human angels like Marie, who so patiently and consistently help perform miracles with the children. I know some autistic children and they're a challenge. Good article! Voted Up!

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