When Kim Pagan’s youngest child, Joey, wasn’t following the typical developmental pathway of most children, she felt the need to understand what was going on and how she could help her son. Born prematurely, Joey is prone to seizures and lives with Cerebral Palsy, a congenital disorder of movement. This impacts his speech and communication. At age 5, Joey couldn’t communicate with his parents or six siblings in any way other than crying. This made everyday tasks such as eating and playing difficult for both Joey and his family. With such trouble conveying his requests, his family just didn’t know how to help.
The Pagans had recently moved to Palm Coast in Florida when they were referred to a group in Jacksonville for Joey’s speech and occupational therapy needs. Four times a week, his mother would take him the 60 miles to Jacksonville from Palm Coast– a hefty drive to make that frequently. Wanting an option closer to home, Kim spoke with PT Solutions and Joey’s pediatrician and was able to get Joey’s providers to refer him to a PT Solutions in Palm Coast that offered speech and occupational therapy services. According to Joey’s mother, the change has proved to be one of the best decisions their family ever made.
In November of 2016, Joey and his mom made their first visit to PT Solutions where they met with Kim Arnold, a speech and language pathologist. Speech and language pathology works with a wide variety of issues surrounding speech including articulation, voice, feeding, and swallowing. In Joey’s case, he isn’t able to control his voice muscles due to Cerebral Palsy, making it very difficult to express himself through speech. After working with Joey for about four months without any progress using spoken words, Kim Arnold knew what Joey needed– augmentative and alternative communication.
Augmentative and alternative communication ranges from hand gestures that supplement conversation all the way to advanced systems that can speak for an individual. Since PT Solutions offers a suite of therapeutic services, Kim Arnold was able to look at a global picture of Joey with his other PT Solutions providers. Kim Arnold came to the conclusion that since Joey is able to communicate with his eyes, a special system developed by Tobii Dynovox would help improve his communication. At $17,000, this system is difficult to obtain; however, Kim Arnold was up for the challenge. Within a few months, Kim Arnold was able to get the proper funding and insurance clearance to provide Joey with the system.
This system allows Joey to communicate by using eye tracking through an infrared sensor bar on a 10-inch computer screen. By tracking Joey’s pupils, the program uses grid boxes to track how long Joey looks at a particular selection on the screen. Selections include boxes such as a “Yes” or “No” to more complex selections such as what kind of snack he would like and what activities he would like to do such as dance. This communication system has vast capabilities for Joey.
“This system can be modified and upgraded over time all the way up to 80 selection buttons and over 600 pages,” Kim Arnold explained. “The potential reaches beyond just ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ selections; Joey can take this system to school with him, and he can take tests and exams on it by using multiple choice selections. This system is completely transportable–he can take it anywhere. This technology and the way it is able to help Joey makes me look at my field with a different lens.”
For Joey’s mother, the system helps make life easier for her family. “Joey only says about four words, so it helps me communicate with him about things like going to bed, what he wants to eat, and where he wants to go,” Kim Pagan said. “We were above and beyond thrilled that Kim Arnold was able to fight for us and work with insurance. She doesn’t stop until she gets what Joey needs. We were actually considering moving back to Tennessee, but we decided to stay here in Palm Coast due to Joey’s experience with Kim Arnold and PT Solutions.”
Now, Joey will be looking forward to communicating with his newest sibling, a special-needs 1-year-old that the Pagans are in the process of adopting. The Pagans made the decision to adopt a child with needs like Joey in part due to the support they have received from PT Solutions.
“We want Joey to grow up with someone like him, and the backup that we receive from PT Solutions helped us make this decision,” Kim Pagan said. “They treat Joey like he doesn’t have a disability, but work with him like any other 5-year-old. Joey loves it there, and he gets so excited to visit. He knows how to say ‘Hi,’ so he says hi to everyone when he arrives. We would recommend PT Solutions to any family with a special needs child, hands down. ”
If your family member has a limited range of communication, PT Solutions can help. Call us at 1-844-REHAB04 or visit one of our clinics today.