Kitchener-Waterloo Ambassador (2018-2019)
From even before he was born, Alexander has faced many challenges. At 22 weeks into Shannon’s pregnancy, an ultrasound revealed that Alexander had extra fluid in the ventricles of his brain. At the time, the doctor told Shannon that it could potentially affect his development, but Alexander was born healthy and “very cuddly” as his mother, Shannon, describes.
When he was a baby, Shannon noticed that Alexander wouldn’t turn his head to the left. After three months of weekly physiotherapy appointments, he overcame this challenge. Alexander continued to meet every milestone even mastering first sounds such as “Ma-ma-ma” and “Da-da-da.” At 13 months of age, he experienced his first of many severe ear infections.
“We were playing the one day and as I looked at him, it was like a light switch went off,” recalls Shannon. “Something was unique and different about him that day. He had been saying ‘Ma-ma-ma’ and ‘Da-da-da’ and suddenly, it was gibberish. That turned into a couple of weeks and then his speaking just stopped.”
At 18 months of age, Alexander was referred to KidsAbility. Initially assessed by an occupational and speech therapist at KidsAbility, it was determined that Alexander’s challenges could be best helped through speech therapy and augmentative communication services.Alexander has suspected Childhood Apraxia of Speech—a complicated neurological motor planning disorder. This impacts Alexander’s ability to speak clearly and causes him to have difficulty processing words and sentences. He knows what he wants to say, but when his brain tries to tell the muscles in his mouth how to make the right sounds to form the words, the message becomes scrambled and the sounds don’t always come out the way he wants.
Every new word for Alexander has been achieved only through a tremendous amount of hard work on his part in therapy and by practicing at home with his family. For this chatty, social and tender-hearted four-year-old boy, his twice-weekly appointments with his team at KidsAbility are giving him the skills, the support and the tools to communicate with confidence in a way that makes sense for him forming words with his mouth and with the assistance of a tablet.
One of the most significant milestones for Alexander has been learning how to speak using three to four word sentences. “On his own, I heard him say for the first time ‘I love you Mommy.’ I was in tears for the rest of the day!” says Shannon.
For many of us, learning how to speak comes naturally. For Alexander and the over 3,500 children like him at KidsAbility, communicating—whether it is verbally or through the use of a communication device—is a skill that is achieved only after many hours of therapy, practice and the support of a dedicated team and KidsAbility.
“Alexander is proud of being able to do something that he wasn’t able to do before. He can now participate in board games with his sister and he’s proud of being able to be part of the family and can share what’s going on,” says Shannon.
Today, Alexander is relying on his words more than his tablet, which has been a big shift for him. He’s gaining more confidence with independent communication which will be especially helpful for when he starts junior kindergarten this fall.
“KidsAbility has brought back my child’s spirit and who he is and who he can be. Communicating is everything. It has opened up his little world so much,” says Shannon.
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