A success story written by Julie A. Milian, Student Clinician at FIU
“Today we are going to see JR, a 3-year-old boy who presents autism and severe apraxia,” said Barbie C., his speech therapist and also my supervisor. The reality of observing JR for the first time was far more than what a Language Diagnostic Report or the description of my supervisor could convey. I was eager to meet him; nevertheless, I was nervous. My first observations when I met him were that he would not make eye contact; he ran instead of walking; he would not listen; he was upset – crying and screaming; and the only thing he was able to verbalize was “ah-ah-ah-ah.” Clearly he was challenging, but I was looking forward to working with him. Since I was very nervous that day, the fact that I was just observing him for first time made me feel relieved; however, I knew that soon I was going to working with him.
The first few sessions began with a 15-minute walk on the playground. He wasn’t able to walk next to me without holding my hand or running away from me. Then we practiced sitting at a table, and I started giving him one toy animal at a time. He did not seem to enjoy playing; he didn’t show any interest in toys. His frustration about not knowing how to request toys or interact with them or with other people seemed to throw him off all the time. Soon he was crying and screaming again and not interested in anything. At the end of that session, he probably thought that our therapy sessions were over. But they weren’t over. At the end of every session after that, I told my supervisor that I was emotionally exhausted but that I couldn’t wait for my next therapy with him. JR was very challenging but he had great potential, and that kept me motivated.
After a little more than a month, I started feeling joy after every session. JR was making progress in each therapy. He was now able to walk next to me (no more holding hands or running away). Pretty soon no more walking at the beginning of the session was required. Every therapy session was done at a table, with no more crying or screaming. It was so nice to see him smile while we were playing. Week after week I saw how JR benefited from therapy. Thank goodness for it! He progressed from saying “ah-ah-ah” to saying “give me (to request toys), mommy, daddy, dog, bye-bye, wow, horse,” and more. It was thrilling to see how his vocabulary and pragmatic skills were growing.
Unfortunately my internship time was coming to an end. One day we were playing with farm animals and people like we usually did. By this time he always enjoyed play time. He was making animal sounds like dogs and cows. We were taking turns pretending that mommy and daddy were riding a horse. He had learned that animals had to go to the barn when it was night time because it was time to sleep (he pretended that he was asleep too). It was clear that JR was making a lot of progress and that he was behaving much better. Not only was his vocabulary growing but also he was learning new concepts such as pretending to go to sleep or riding a horse. I remember one afternoon during therapy, JR was having his snack (apple juice). At this time his favorite toys were mommy and daddy. Because he was very happy and enjoying this time, he was forgetting about his juice. I would tell him, “J your juice” or “J drink juice.” All of a sudden he took his juice in one hand and mommy (toy) in the other, and he got a sip of his juice and said, “mommy juice.” He placed the straw in the doll’s mouth and kept saying
“mommy juice, mommy juice.” I was speechless. JR had moved from one syllable, “ah,” to two words “mommy juice.”
Finally, all the knowledge, experience, advice, and dedication that I received from Barbie, my supervisor, had paid off, but above all THANK GOODNESS FOR THERAPY.