Northern Ohio Family Finds Speech Therapy Help at Easter Seals

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Easter Seals Northern Ohio's speech therapy services for 6-year-old Adam made a difference, not only for Adam, but for his family and the community.

Easter Seals Northern Ohio's speech therapy services for 6-year-old Adam made a difference, not only for Adam, but for his family and the community.

As Adam Oswald was finishing his first year of preschool, his mom knew his speech was not on par with his peers.

But when Tricia Oswald sat down with school employees they assured her that his progress was fine. He did not need speech therapy during the summer months, they told her.

"As a parent, you just cry. You know darn well he's not talking," she says.

Despite her continued pleas, the school system declined to provide further speech therapy. But the mail intervened. A little while later, Tricia received her Upside of Downs newsletter. It mentioned an Easter Seals summer program.

Tricia picked up the phone and talked to Easter Seals of Northern Ohio (LINK). That was almost three years ago and ever since Adam, now 6 who has Down's Syndrome, has been spending 30 minutes every week in speech therapy.

Therapist Maureen Tyrrell says when Adam first arrived there were a few major challenges--he would sit and cry. But after they got to know each other, the relationship and the therapy clicked.
"Now he comes into the office and gives everybody hugs and kisses," she says.
Tricia says Adam could barely say hi when he first arrived for his therapy sessions. Now, when he pops in the door he says, "Hi Miss Maureen. I'm ready."

Adam also had sensory issues and could not stand to have anything, such as a toothbrush, in his mouth when he first started at Easter Seals.

That was a problem, especially when Miss Maureen wanted to do physical exercises to get his tongue ready for the speech exercises. Today, Adam's sensory issues are no longer a problem. She now is able to use both a swab and a tongue depressor to get his mouth and tongue moving at the beginning of each session.

"He doesn't fully enjoy it, but he'll do it," she says.

Adam's progress and ability now to speak in complete sentences is appreciated by Tricia and the entire Oswald family, including dad Greg, Sydney, 8, and Matthew 4.

Even when their insurance did not cover the speech therapy, the Oswald family paid for it out of their own pocket because Adam's speech was developing so well. They also continued to have Adam work with Miss Maureen at Easter Seals during the school year when speech therapy also is administered at his school.

"I still won't let her go," Tricia says of the Easter Seals speech therapist. "Maureen knows so much."

Miss Maureen spends 30 minutes every Monday working with Adam on receptive and expressive language and articulation in his speech.

"He likes to play like any 6-year-old," she says. "He really likes structure and routine."
Games often become part of therapy. For example, the Little People barn at Easter Seals serves as a setting for Adam to learn the meaning of some prepositions--putting the animals "under," "front," "back" or "next to."

"I try to sneak in as much as I possibly can with him," Miss Maureen says.

Adam responds well, though sometimes it may feel to his Easter Seals speech therapist like she has to stand on her head to get some things accomplished. She says speech therapy involves give-and-take--and as long as Adam knows he gets to do something he likes, he participates.
The therapy also includes the computer, which Adam can use easily, particularly his favorite, "Buddy Bear," program.

Beyond his speech therapy at Easter Seals, Adam is a visible participant in the non-profit organization. He frequently is involved with Easter Seals events, sharing his story so participants can see first-hand results of the work being done.

This summer, he'll return as an Easter Seals' Walk with Me ambassador. At last year's event at the zoo, he was not afraid to speak into the microphone and tell the crowd his favorite animal is a bear.
Adam also does not shy away from walking into an Easter Seals board meeting full of adults and giving everyone a hug.

"Now he thinks he's Mr. Performer," his mom says.

Those who come in contact with Adam know what a special opportunity they are receiving as well. They talk about how his love of life is infectious. "I really believe he knows the effect he has," Tricia says. "He knows when he gets a laugh and he knows how to get another laugh.
"Easter Seals has given us so many opportunities."

About Easter Seals Northern Ohio
Easter Seals Northern Ohio's commitment to help children and adults with disabilities live with equality, dignity and independence is carried out through programs in four service areas: Medical Services, Home and Community Based Services, Educational Services and Recreational Services. Specifically, Easter Seals Northern Ohio specializes in speech therapy services for children, as well as a number of senior and home-healthcare programs in Northern Ohio, including Cleveland, Lorain, Akron, Canton, Fremont, Sandusky, Toledo and more. For more information, go to http://noh.easterseals.com/.

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