“When Brycen was a baby, he couldn’t communicate at all. We were told he would never walk,” recalled his mother Lucie. He had no emotional expression and didn’t react to the people and things around him. “We even thought early on that he was Deaf.”
Lucie kept asking questions and learning everything she could. She discovered Brycen had a conductive hearing loss caused by chronic ear infections, which having tubes placed in his ears helped to alleviate. She also learned he had a lot of difficulty with basic communication.
“He would meltdown because he was frustrated that he couldn’t communicate what was going on in his head,” Lucie continued. He also had trouble understanding the meaning of words and concepts. “So often, people think a child’s bad behavior means they’re not listening, and it’s not that at all. The child hears you but is not processing what you’re saying.”
Through speech language therapy at Pine Tree Society, Brycen, his family and caregivers have all developed practical skills to help manage his frustration and overcome communication obstacles. It’s an ongoing process that started when he was very young. He’s now 18 years old, competes in Special Olympics and loves playing basketball.
“He’s a kind, happy person.” That’s how Shannon McFarland, his Speech-Language Pathologist described him.
She and other professionals at Pine Tree Society have worked with him and his family for years.
“It’s the word-meaning component of language and the social aspects of language that we focus on,” she said.
He loves puns and jokes so she uses that as a tool for him to think about what words mean and that what people say isn’t always literal.
“We work through and practice different situations,” said Shannon. “We find a balance between his interests and what he’s doing at home and in his community and put together goals that help him in the bigger world.”
“Pine Tree Society’s speech and language therapy services have had a huge impact on our whole family,” said Lucie. “It’s helped us to be able to understand a lot of the things he experiences. Sometimes it’s as simple as reminding him to slow down. It can be really difficult to understand him, but when he slows down we can. I’ve also learned how I have to break things down for him and speak slowly and clearly. Presenting him with a choice can take a few tries and when I repeat the choices I change how I say it, and that helps him comprehend.”
“It’s wonderful to have that kind of collaboration with families,” said Shannon. “You come to me with a problem and let’s see how it has relevance to language then we can figure it out and make a plan to help you communicate in a more productive way.”