Nancy J. Wright, M.A., CCC
Director, Scottish Rite Childhood Language Disorders Clinic
As much as we have helped Casey, she has taught us
Nowadays, a frequent theme of publications and broadcasts centers around “angels.” Most of these stories affirm the existence of spiritual angels who have intervened in the lives of individuals to carry them through troubled times. Although I do not dispute these stories, I strongly believe angels in human form are abundant, especially for us who work in the Scottish Rite Childhood Language Disorders Program. We are fortunate since almost every day we are touched by angels, whether clients or sponsors.
Having diagnosed and treated children throughout 15 years of experience with the Guthrie Scottish Rite Clinic, I have had numerous opportunities to work with a variety of communication disorders, including developmental speech/language problems, pervasive developmental disorders, autism, cerebral palsy, albinism, deafness, fetal alcohol syndrome, emotional disturbance, and more. I thought I had observed everything in the realm of childhood language disorders and behaviors, but after Casey and I met I realized my conclusion was wrong.
Approximately two years ago, Casey entered our program in Guthrie. She was referred by a Mason, who just happens to be her proud grand-father. Initially, Casey, who was five at the time, exhibited the receptive skills of a 20-month-old child and the expressive skills of an 18-month-old. Her speech was characterized by one-word utterances, mainly of nouns and proper nouns, such as the names of familiar objects and family members. In addition, because she omitted sounds and syllables from her words, Casey’s speech was often unclear. Coupled with those problems were gross and fine motor difficulties, including oral motor problems, poor vision, neurological involvement, and a very short attention span.
Initial therapy goals included expanding Casey’s knowledge and use of different word types. Thus it was necessary to expose her to a more varied vocabulary, one which included not only nouns, but words denoting action, description, and location. By increasing her knowledge of actions and object properties, she would begin combining her existing lexicon of nouns with new words.
Time after time, session after session, Casey was exposed to action concepts and then to two-word combinations. At the completion of one year of treatment, she was speaking mainly in two-word utterances with three-word combinations emerging. Testing at that time revealed expressive abilities approximating those of a 28-month-old child, and her overall language abilities were estimated at the 30-month level.
Today, Casey continues to progress, and she can participate in full-day classes and school productions. She possesses an uncanny memory for names and has developed a love of books. On the whole, Casey is talking and responding appropriately in more situations, and her use of sounds and syllables has improved as well. But as much as we have helped Casey, she has taught us as well. A prelude to many of Casey’s sessions includes a hugging, laughing, singing, and motion activity. I admit to profiting from that time as much or more than Casey.
To her family and those who know her, Casey’s an angel, and her message is clear. She helped me to learn that patience is indeed a virtue and to reevaluate my blessings. Her example has rekindled my joy for everyday things and activities I had previously taken for granted. She has also provided me with a new outlook; one cannot allow a disability or limitation to define an individual or group. Casey brings to those she meets an innocence, overwhelming curiosity, a love for even the most familiar aspects of life and, most of all, a pure sense of humor.
Casey’s life has purpose and meaning, and she has had a positive impact on many people. In her special way, she will continue to grow and to benefit others. She is blessed to come from a very loving and supportive family, and the Scottish Rite Masons have provided her an environment in which to blossom. I, too, am fortunate to have been touched by this wonderful child, this angel.