The United States of Autism: Film Debut Features Iowa Family

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Fireflies/Jubilee Project: Autism Is campaign…

Check out this lovely video for the “Autism Is…” campaign. Brought tears to my eyes. Very sweet.


Ear Infections and Speech Development

This past summer I had a nasty case of “swimmer’s ear” otherwise known as otitis externa. It was the worst pain I’ve had in years. It got so bad,  I ended up in the emergency room and stayed the night in the hospital. The reason was that the infection had begun creeping into my cranial nerves, which caused temporary facial paralysis; in fact, I could barely speak. The doctors ordered a CT scan because they feared the infection was spreading to the mastoid bone behind my ear. Luckily, it hadn’t reached there, but the doctor said he was thankful I came to the hospital when I did. Apparently the infection can travel to the brain from the mastoid bone and then things can get very ugly.


Needless to say, it was not fun! I was released from the hospital within 24 hours. However, I couldn’t eat for nearly five days and I had trouble chewing for a few days afterward–which was great for dropping a few pounds, but not so great on my overall health!


Swimmer’s ear can be common in the summer, while inner ear infections (or otitis media) are very common in the winter. With winter upon us, I thought it was a good time to post about ear infections. So, what do ear infections have to do with speech development?


Ear infections are the number one reason for speech delays in children! Speech development is at its peak from 12 months to four years of age, also the time ear infections are most common in children.


The symptoms of otitis media often appear during or after a cold or a respiratory infection. Since fluid can collect in the middle ear with or without causing pain (unlike otitis externa which is very painful)- parents often notice symptoms of an ear infection before the child does.


Here are some of the common symptoms of ear infections:



-rubbing or pulling on the ears

-having difficulty keeping balance, running or jumping

-earaches or drainage of the ear

-partial loss of hearing

-talking less than usual or having unclear speech

-using gestures rather than talking

-turning up the TV or radio louder than normal

-frequent need to have information repeated

-changes in sleeping or eating habits


When a child gets ear infections several times a year, it’s called “recurrent otitis media”. The child can experience temporary loss of hearing or distortions of the sounds they hear. The loss or distortions can last for up to six weeks after an ear infection has healed. This loss can be described as mild or fluctuating, but can also be a major cause for speech and language delays later. Children who are not hearing properly may “tune out” everyday sounds or even a parent’s voice. The fluid in the middle ear can cause similar words to sound the same. In short, since these kids don’t hear the sound properly, they don’t learn how to say them properly.


Parents can help by seeking prompt medical attention if your child has frequent ear infections. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics, but also may need to refer your child to an ENT (otolaryngologist) for treatment or the placement of tubes to facilitate drainage and relieve pressure on the inner ear. An audiologist may also be needed to test your child’s hearing and a speech-language pathologist can help with the treatment of speech delays.


I’ve seen many children over the years that had speech delays from recurrent otitis media. With a combination of tube placement and speech therapy, the child’s speech delays can quickly be normalized. Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have.


Please watch out for your child’s little ears–and your own!

Autism and the Gift of Friendship

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending my dear friend’s fundraiser event: The Holes for Hope 2011 Golf Classic. Holes for Hope is a foundation that raises money to fund local organizations and awareness for autism ( It was truly a fabulous night!!


The keynote speaker was Tyler Lagasse, a 24 year old young man living with autism. He is a national speaker for Special Olympics and an avid golfer. Among other accomplishments, Tyler has been featured on the Golf Channel and on CNN.


Tyler gave  a wonderful speech and is clearly an amazing person! I don’t think there was a dry eye in the crowd by the time he was finished. He spoke about how within the world of autism there really are no limits– that the possibility of someone’s potential! He talked about how he tries to live his life with no boundaries and always pushes himself to do his personal best.



Tyler spoke of two special friendships that helped shape him into the man he is today: his school’s custodian that taught him about character and a former babysitter who taught him how to golf. He talked about how they never just saw “his autism”- they saw who he was as a person and they did not view him as a person with limits.


I sat listening to him as tears streamed down my face. Anyone who knows me well knows I have a passion for autism. They have probably heard me on more than one occasion talk about how relationships are the key in working with children with autism. A child can work with the most highly esteemed “expert” in the field, but if that person does not have a meaningful relationship with the child, they will see little success. A child with autism has a very good “intuition” or sense of people that truly care about them. They need to feel deeply respected, safe and understood in order to achieve. When a child feels a deeper bond with the person working with them, they will succeed and accomplish most anything they want to.


I was so thankful to be part of a community of like-minded individuals in a room where each person there was trying to make a difference for someone living with autism. I hope anyone reading this does what they can in their community to help. Please remember that sometimes the greatest gift you can give to an individual living with autism is the wonderful gift of friendship!


~Hope abounds~





April is Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month! Autism is very near and dear to my heart as I’ve taken an extreme interest in it for all of my adult life. I have worked with countless children and families over  the years and all have touched my heart in a profound way. I will never forget these children. I’m lucky that quite a few of the families I’ve worked with are still in my life today. The children and their families taught me more than I could have ever dreamed of teaching them.

I will never forget witnessing some of these children speak their first word or the first time they said “I love you” to their parents. Their journey is absolutely amazing and the progress they can make is astounding.

This month all my blog posts will focus on autism. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Always remember -hope abounds! Never underestimate a child with Autism- their ability to shine is limitless.


On Becoming an SLP

I’ve known for as long as I can remember that I was passionate about helping people. As a child, I helped other kids in my class and was friends with everyone- from the biggest trouble maker to the child with a developmental disability that also stuttered (in fact, those two were my favorite). I remember loving learning the ABC’s in sign language and I can not tell you how much I loved the story about Helen Keller in elementary school.


Throughout the years, my passion to help others never wavered. When I went off to college the fall of 1989, my major was elementary education but something about it wasn’t the perfect fit. All I knew was that I wanted to be able to have a very close relationship with people and affect a person’s life in a very profound way. Little did I know that my life was soon to be profoundly affected and that my career path would basically choose me.


The summer of 1990, my boyfriend Andy had a severe brain aneurysm. Needless to say, that summer his life and mine changed forever. Andy was in a coma for eight weeks. I was devastated. I spent as much time with him as possible and when college resumed that fall, my parents essentially forced me to make the six-hour trip to Springfield. I think I cried the whole way. Every weekend, I would find rides home so I could spend time with Andy.


Andy, being the amazing person he is, defied all the odds. With time, he learned to talk again, walk again, read again, tie his shoes again, and regain most of his independence. I felt so guilty for being able to easily do all those things that were so very hard for him.


Obviously, my world was shattered. It was extremely hard trying to be a fun-loving college girl when my mind and heart were with thoughts of Andy hours away in a hospital room. Through Andy’s strength and perseverance though, I somehow had to find mine. He always stayed positive during his rehabilitation; he would always simply say , “I am just happy to be alive!”


Those words constantly rang in my ears and that’s what I had to do: find a way to be happy to “alive” too!  I had no idea how I was going to do that until one day when I looked over at Andy’s speech therapy materials. I thumbed through them, asked him some questions and at that moment, I knew! I knew with every fiber of my being that this is what I had to do with my life. I would become a Speech-Language Pathologist.


On the bus ride back to college that weekend, after a good cry- I knew it was time for me to make a positive change in my life- I couldn’t keep crying my life away. The following Monday, I made an appointment with the head of the Communication Disorders and Sciences Department. By Tuesday, I had toured the facility, read a book on Aphasia and had the paperwork necessary to change my major. My life had meaning again.


There are few clear moments in your life when you know with certainty where your life should lead. It’s an amazing thing to happen. I must say, even over the twenty years since that time, I know it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I truly love what I do! How many people can say that?


I’m sure this won’t be my last blog post in which I mention Andy. He has always been an inspiration to me and I am lucky to remain close with him and his family. Andy will always hold a special piece of my heart.


Every tragedy- every hard time we may experience in our lives- there is something good comes out of it! Mother Superior from The Sound of Music was right: “Whenever God closes a door, he opens a window.”




Welcome to my blog! I never thought I’d be a blogger, but here I am. I have a lot to say and I hope to keep it interesting. I will be blogging about things relevant to the field of speech and language therapy. I have a passion for Autism so I’m sure I’ll be talking about that a lot too. I will love your comments and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Thanks for reading my blog (OMG I have a blog)!