When our son, Cooper, turned two years old last June, our family had spent the previous year struggling to cope with his perplexing health problems. While he had breastfed happily and developed normally as an infant, Cooper developed an extreme oral aversion causing him to
refuse all liquids and solid foods. By his first birthday Cooper’s growth had plateaued. Shortly thereafter, he was hospitalized while he received formula through a naso-gastric tube. A few months later, a feeding port was surgically placed in his abdomen so that I could use
a syringe to pump blenderized food directly into his tummy.`
Speech delays are not uncommon in children with feeding
aversions and Cooper is no exception. My husband and I
felt that a preschool would be enormously beneficial for
Cooper, but we wanted to place him in an environment
where he could thrive and his challenges wouldn’t
hold him back. CSA came highly recommended by
Cooper’s speech therapist and after visiting, we felt
confident that it was a good fit. When he enrolled at
CSA last August he was almost entirely non-verbal. His
receptive language skills, however, were excellent, and
he was adept at communicating through sign language.
The first few weeks at CSA were challenging. Cooper had
never experienced school or daycare and he was typically
cautious in new environments, but in no time he felt comfortable enough to be the same goofy boy he is at home. He began babbling constantly and we were thrilled at how vocal he had become. Then one day in mid-
September, one of Cooper’s teachers texted me a video. Cooper was drinking water through a straw! A few weeks later, he was eating animal crackers and by Christmas he would happily munch on raw broccoli while I prepared dinner.
At the same time, Cooper’s babble quickly turned into words and then the words became sentences. We’re still working on articulation, but his progress is truly astonishing. The group therapy model that CSA provides has been instrumental in Cooper’s transformation.
It can be difficult to accomplish much in a single hour-long session of private speech therapy, particularly with a young child, but at CSA the teachers are able to work with students in a variety of environments throughout the day. The past year has been truly life-changing. At the beginning of the school year, Cooper couldn’t speak, drink, or eat. Now, my husband and I are nearly moved to tears when we have dinner with our son. Last night, in between bites of lamb with grilled veggies and saffron rice, we talked about the birds at our bird feeder. Cooper quickly corrected me when I mistakenly announced that I spotted a Chickadee: “No, Mama! A SPARROW!” A few months ago, Cooper would have simply pointed and made the sign for ‘bird’. The power of speech has opened up a whole new world for him. Thank you to everyone at CSA for enriching all of our lives!