speech-language pathologist, I get a front row seat for them more times than most. I’m sure my “sister professions” of Occupational and Physical therapies would agree. Amazing things happen when the right people match with the right moment. It’s safe to say that communication is important. Words are powerful. If you’ve never considered the thought, imagine what it might be like to lose your ability to communicate, whether by words or signs. How would that impact the people around you? How would it change your world? It’s pretty intense because words carry with them more than sounds blended together. They hold significant meaning for us and others around us. Words build our social relationships and bring deeper bonds of understanding. Think of the old adage “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you.” As adults we realize how false that statement is. Words break and sting much more than sticks and stones can. But words can also provide hope, healing, and relationship. They can inspire laughter, share comfort, hail good news, encourage camaraderie, stir-up memory, and build friendships. I was reminded of little miracles and the power of words a few weeks ago while working with a little boy who has a severe phonological disorder. He struggles to say many of the sounds that same-aged kids use with ease. He’s such a smart, sweet kiddo with an amazingly supportive family who want to help him in any way they can. When he showed up in my clinic room the first time, I could see the concern on mom’s face — the fear of the unknown and the sadness in his lack of communicative abilities. Because he couldn’t speak clearly, he hadn’t produced many words his older sibling had said. In fact, even as a speech-language pathologist I could only understand about 10% of what he had to say. He’d tried to say things like “love” and “sissy” and even “mommy”, but had never been able to produce them clearly, so he spent a lot of time being misunderstood and frustrated. (Which in turn frustrated and worried his sweet mama). Well, the moment finally happened — while Mom was sitting in the treatment room with me. I got to witness the beautiful magic in the simple miracle. We had been working on final consonants and moved into two syllable words. He said “happy” and “puppy” and “nana” for banana — then I asked him to imitate the word ‘mommy’. He repeated it, beautifully. His eyes grew wide. His smile grew wider. And then he looked over at his mom and with his face focused, concentrating on every movement, he said, “Mommy.” Her hand flew to her mouth and her eyes grew tearful. He said it again. “Mommy.” Mom shook her head. “That’s the first time he’s ever said it. Mommy. I’ve never heard him say it before.” The frustration and sadness from earlier melted away in this long-awaited anticipation and joy. He’d said words before that one. He continued to say words after that one, but the word ‘mommy’ held the power to change the moment from an ordinary therapy session to extraordinary. From typical to memorable. Words have that power and it’s the reason why we, clinicians, fight for the children and adults we serve. We know that our profession provides assistance to support miracles and magic through the power of words and the joy that comes along with those. We all have the ability to bring those positive moments into other people’s lives through the power of our words, so use them wisely! And celebrate those simple miracles in your child’s life, whether it’s a sound, a word, sentence, or activity! Rejoice in the magic of simple miracles. Here’s hoping you find a way to bring positive power to your words today.
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