Chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal gives Hat­boro child gift of speech

The Willow Grove Guide - - FRONT PAGE - By Caitlin Burns

cburns@mont­ For Hat­boro res­i­dents Dawn Sites and her 2-year-old son, Jaiden Colon, spend­ing hours each week at St. Christopher’s Hos­pi­tal for Chil­dren is a nor­mal rou­tine. A pre­ma­ture baby at birth, Jaiden spent the first sev­eral months of his life at St. Christopher’s. Then shortly af­ter, his doc­tors dis­cov­ered he had eat­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and was not de­vel­op­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills prop­erly.

“I was scared,” Sites said. “ko­body around me had been through this. I didn’t have any­one. [The peo­ple at St. Christopher’s] just kept re­as­sur­ing me.”

Sites and Jaiden’s speech ther­a­pist, Allyson Me­nard, said since start­ing his speech ther­apy nearly two years ago, Jaiden has come a long way through play-based learn­ing and en­cour­age­ment.

“There’s been a big dif­fer­ence from even six months ago,” Sites said. “Be­fore he would sit there and cry and I’d have to guess. kow, when he’s hun­gry, he’ll say eat.”

Sites said one of the main ways Jaiden has been learn­ing to com­mu­ni­cate is through show­ing what he wants or sign­ing. An ex­am­ple is when he’s thirsty; he will hand her his cup. She said now Jaiden has even been able to add about 100 new words to his vo­cab­u­lary and can rec­og­nize an­i­mals and the sounds they make.

“He’s made re­ally nice progress,” Me­nard said. “He has made sig­nif­i­cant gains in lan­guage.”

Me­nard said Jaiden’s progress is typ­i­cal of chil­dren with com­mu­ni­ca­tions prob­lems. The big­gest dif­fer­ence, she said, be­tween Jaiden and other chil­dren she works with, is Sites’s fol­low-through at home. Me­nard said Sites will con­tinue Jaiden’s learn­ing at home by car­ry­ing the lan­guage skills he gains into ev­ery-day life. She said Sites en­cour­ages Jaiden to use his new lan­guage skills to share what he wants and needs out­side of the ther­apy ses­sion.

“He has a mother who is very in­volved and car­ries it over,” Me­nard said. “See­ing him grow up, it’s been a re­ally fun thing be­ing part of his de­vel­op­ment.”

In ad­di­tion, she and Sites said, Jaiden has seen sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment since hav­ing tubes put in his ears in March.

“Ever since he got the tubes in,” Sites said, “it was like night and day.”

Jaiden is one of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who has speech and lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties. Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Speech-Lan­guageHear­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, 8 to 9 per­cent of young chil­dren de­velop a speech sound dis­or­der and, by first grade and 5 per­cent of chil­dren have no­tice­able speech im­pair­ments, many for no known cause.

The Depart­ment of Speech Ther­apy at St. Christopher’s Hos­pi­tal spe­cial­izes in help­ing chil­dren and ado­les­cents with com­mu­ni­ca­tion and swal­low­ing is­sues. They are in­di­vid­u­ally eval­u­ated and treated to help im­prove achieve­ments.

Me­nard said ther­apy can go “as lit­tle as 6 months to years de­pend­ing on how quickly [they] pick [it] up.” She said the goal is to get th­ese chil­dren and ado­les­cents at the same de­vel­op­ment level as their peers.

Dawn Sites, cen­ter, as­sists with her son, Jor­dan Colon’s, com­mu­ni­ca­tion ther­apy with ther­a­pist Allyson Me­nard from St. Christopher’s Hos­pi­tal for Chil­dren.

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