The Hearing and Speech Center Board

Our Heroes



Quiet Christopher….Not so Much!

Christopher’s parents brought him to Children’s when they recognized a delay in his speech. As many kids his age were already saying words and phrases, Christopher did not show similar signs of language development. Concerned they may be dealing with deeper cognitive issues, they enrolled him in speech and language services when he was two years old. Christopher progressed well in his therapy sessions, and one in particular stands out.

During this session, Christopher and the speech –language pathologist were reading an “Apple Tree Farm” story about pigs living on the farm. There were 6 pigs in all (1 Sow and 5 piglets). The story revolved around the “runt” of the litter named “Curly”. On a particular page in the story, Curly is in the pig pen with his family just before feeding time. Christopher counted the pigs as well as talked about them and where they were. Not only did he comprehend that the pigs were part of family, he went on to say “He is playing in the pen with his sister.” The clinician was shocked! They had never talked about the family member titles or how they were correlate to the gender of an individual. Additionally, as Christopher was an only child, “sister” most likely would not yet have been in his vocabulary. Christopher’s mother happened to be pregnant at the time, so the clinician asked the mother what the gender of the child was, and she said she was having a girl—the patient’s sister! Whoa! That served as a “Wow! Kid you no longer need speech and language therapy services” kind of moment.

Performing well on his assessments, Christopher graduated from speech and language services and is currently doing well in school and at home. Now the parents want to know, “Is there a button to turn him off?”



DeonDeon – Helping a future paleontologist find his voice.

Deon came to The Hearing and Speech Center Board for an evaluation when he was almost 3 years old. It was determined he had childhood apraxia of speech. At that time, Deon was unintelligible to many people and could only say “h” and a few vowel sounds.

In his first therapy session he picked up a dinosaur and said “ah-eh-uh-ah”. When the clinician did not understand, he said it again, “ah-eh-uh-ah”. He was so frustrated but so patient with those who did not understand him. Finally, the clinician figured out he was telling her the dinosaur was a triceratops. (He was correct by the way.) Over the past 2 years, Deon has gotten to a point where he is mostly intelligible to an unfamiliar listener and is typically able to communicate his thoughts to others. He regularly does his speech homework with his parents and comes in every week to practice his sounds with his clinician. Seeing a child go from having such difficulty communicating with others to successfully communicating with others is rewarding and validates the amazing work done at the Center every day..



MaeveMaeve the Brave. A tiny girl overcomes major obstacles.

This is the story of Maeve the Brave. The Center was first consulted on Miss Maeve when she was 3 months old. She was a NICU graduate, and while at home continued to have poor weight gain, issues with reflux, and consistent upper respiratory issues. We completed a modified barium swallow study to assess her swallow. It was shown that when Maeve swallowed food went into her stomach, but it was also going into her airway. She was allowed to have liquids thickened to the consistency of honey, but was not able to have anything else due to the concern of her developing pneumonia. Because this drastically restricted her oral intake, a temporary feeding tube was placed in her nose to provide food directly to her stomach, bypassing her throat.

After her discharge from the hospital, she was followed as an outpatient in the clinic for feeding therapy. Treatment was very measured as Maeve not only had to learn to drink the thicker liquids, but continued to have unresolved reflux issues which made her not as interested in eating due to associated pain afterward. Maeve’s family did a remarkable job of following up with her medical team and collaborating plans to make feeding a more pleasurable. One approach focused on introducing different bottles and cups as well as beginning to introduce more solid foods as she began to show interest in eating and not just drinking.

Her swallow studies were repeated and in March, after almost a year of therapy, Maeve was cleared to have thin liquids as she was swallowing these appropriately. Maeve continued to thrive in therapy and was showing more and more interest in eating puffs, veggie sticks, and a variety of other foods at her daycare. In July, Maeve graduated from feeding therapy and has been enjoying eating lasagna and zucchini bread with no problems. She proved to be a very tough little girl and has overcome so many things in such a small amount of time.



MollyFour-year-old Molly is obsessed with the movie Frozen. And like the fearless princess in Disney’s icy animated epic, there’s something very special about Molly. She was born deaf.

“She failed her newborn hearing screening, but the doctors at the hospital where she was born kept saying, ‘Oh, she’ll be fine,'” says Tara Swaminatha, Molly’s mother. “We went from expert to expert, and none of them could tell us definitively if she had hearing loss or not. We got a lot of inconsistent information.”

Tara and her husband, Bob Kaplan, were eventually referred to Diego Preciado, MD, at Children’s National Health System.

“He looked through all the misinformation we had been given, and his face showed genuine sympathy,” Tara says. “He was the first doctor who understood our desperation and wanted to help.”


After a thorough diagnostic evaluation, Dr. Preciado determined Molly did, in fact, have profound bilateral hearing loss. He expedited her hearing aid trial and cleared her for cochlear implantation just shy of her eight-month birthday.

Today, after several years of speech-language therapy, Molly is a thoroughly ordinary girl. And that’s what makes her extraordinary.

“Most people who meet her have no idea she’s deaf,” Tara says. “She speaks better than some of her peers who have typical hearing.”

Tara says her daughter is showing interest in reading and loves listening to music. One of the most encouraging moments occurred earlier this year.

“She came home from school one day singing a song from the Frozen soundtrack,” Tara recalls. “When she was younger, we didn’t know if she’d ever be able to hear, let alone talk. Now she sings all over the house, in the car—everywhere. It’s a beautiful thing to hear.”



Vaughn – Man’s best friend is also a speech therapy ninja.

The Hearing and Speech Center Board had the privilege to meet and work with Vaughn, a smart, five year-old boy with a love for cars, dogs, and exploration. He is also autistic.

Vaughn came to the Center in October of 2013 and completed trials sessions using an alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) device. By the end of the fourth trail session, Vaughn was using the device independently to locate familiar messages and explore new vocabulary. Vaughn continues to receive speech and language therapy incorporating the use of an AAC device.

Incorporating the device as an additional means of communication was only the beginning for Vaughn. He started speaking using routine phrases while interacting with the Speech and Hearing Center’s therapy dog, Elle, by saying, “Eat Elle!” when presenting her with food. He started expressing himself more and self-advocating throughout each session. For example, he states, “I don’t like that,” about certain activities. Vaughn continues to develop his vocabulary and mastery of his AAC device. He has demonstrated the importance of incorporating supportive means of communication to facilitate vocabulary growth and the importance of social interaction. Vaughn’s next adventure will be transitioning to a more lexicon based device to encourage his growth with self-expression and exploration with language.