The Proper Diagnosis is Critical to Remediation

Why is my motto “The proper diagnosis is critical to remediation?” Actually, there are multiple reasons, and here is “The Rest of the Story.”

As a child, I had a speech impediment and went through nine years of speech therapy without any improvement on my /r/ sounds. I attended Justina Road Elementary School and Fort Caroline Junior High. I was made fun of and thought of as being less intelligent because of my speech impediment. Finally, in the ninth grade, one Speech Pathologist properly diagnosed my root problem as being “tongue-tied.” I had my frenulum clipped by our family physician. I went through three more months of speech therapy, and my life was changed dramatically.

I went to college at the University of South Florida and became a Speech-Language Pathologist. My primary interest was not Developmental Disorders, no, it was the rehabilitation of stroke and head injury patients. I loved working in multi-disciplinary settings with adults. I had developed a strong dislike for traditional articulation therapy because of my nine years of speech therapy.

After college I got married and had two sons. My husband’s job moved us out of Florida and into Louisiana. My oldest son was reading two grade levels above his age-level, but he could not write (dysgraphia) or spell. I did everything I could as a Speech-Language Pathologist to help him. We even pulled him out of an excellent private school to home school him, but that did not help either. It was not until we read an article by Paul Harvey entitled, “Learning Disorders are Correctable,” that I learned about Visual Processing Disorders. Once my son received the correct diagnosis and treatment, he walked out of his dysgraphia problem. One thing though, he still did not like spelling. I had not developed my own phonics program, yet.

After my experience with my oldest son, I became trained as a Vision Therapist. I grew frustrated that most of my Vision Therapy patients did not make the radical improvement that my son had made. I began to do additional research about Auditory Processing Disorders. My research was leading me down two different paths. One path was to become a certified instructor in the Lindamood Bell Phonics Program. I believe the Lord gave me Ecclesiastes 3:7, “A time to listen, a time to speak,” as confirmation that He wanted me to continue with the Fast ForWord approach to the remediation of Auditory Processing Disorders. So I took the required training and testing and became a certified Fast ForWord Provider in March, 1997.

As a home school mom, my younger son was now in the second grade and had not learned how to read or learn any phonics. We tried every phonics program available, but nothing worked. I immediately screened my younger son’s auditory discrimination skills, and to my shock, he flunked the test. I subsequently evaluated him on a battery of Auditory Processing Disorder tests. He did not fit the classic pattern (that I knew at that time) for a child with an Auditory Processing Disorder. His articulation was good, his language skills were good, his vocabulary was extensive and he had a high verbal IQ. However, it did not matter one bit; he still had an Auditory Processing Disorder that was causing him to have a Phonological Processing Disorder. He became my first Fast ForWord patient, and I was thrilled with his progress. However, my son’s temporal-auditory processing deficit was so severe that he needed Fast ForWord II to enable him to discriminate blends and multisyllabic words. After his auditory discrimination skills and his Auditory Processing skills were “up to speed,” he still had to learn phonics and learn how to read. It was hard work, but it was worth it. We muddled through several different phonics programs, and all of them were confusing, even to me.

In March, 1997, I opened my private practice of Merritt Speech & Learning. My goal was to use my new found skills as a Visual Processing Therapist and a Speech-Language Pathologist to help children use neuroplasticity to develop new pathways to resolve Developmental Speech Disorders and Developmental Language Disorders. It was during this time that I started developing my unique phonics program, A Time for Phonics.

But tragedy struck my family. My husband and the father of our two young boys had an aortic aneurysm. Regrettably, he was mis-diagnosed as having a kidney stone and then improperly treated. He died suddenly and from our perspective inexplicably. The cause and manner of his death led to my having severe symptoms that superseded grief and were eventually properly diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That diagnoses led me to receive much needed psychological and pharmaceutical help. Seven months after my husband’s sudden death, I crawled back into my office and start seeing a few patients. I was still struggling with multiple complications of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a reduction in my cognitive abilities, specifically: word finding skills, reading comprehension skills, writing skills and a severe inability to learn new information.

In May, 2000, I attended a workshop about Interactive Metronome and learned how to drive neuroplasticity to remediate Timing, Concentration and Motor Processing Disorders. I was my first patient. I saw first-hand how improving my timing skills down to the therapeutic levels of 20 milliseconds for all fourteen exercises, restored my ability to learn. I began to do Timing, Concentration and Motor Processing Therapy for some of my patients. As a Speech-Language Pathologist and a Visual Processing Therapist, I had seen the majority of my patients make remarkable gains in their visual processing skills and auditory processing skills. However, there were a few who did not reach criterion level with regards to speed in one of the therapies. Furthermore, these few children also seemed “a little clumsy” or “slow to respond.” Most of these children had a Timing, Concentration and Motor Processing deficit that was hindering their overall cognitive and communicative progress. I have since become trained as a Registered Interactive Metronome Therapist. I have seen amazing changes in the children/adolescents/adults that have completed this program.

I was willing to tell the prospective parents about the direct benefit of I.M. therapy to my cognitive and communication skills, but I was unwilling to post my own testimony on my professional website. All of that changed when my son, who was serving with the Marines in Afghanistan, summer of 2010 saw his fellow warriors suffer from PTSD. He called me and asked me to tell the world how “IM resolved my PTSD.” I subsequently did a poster and then went on and did a Webinar about my experiences.

I have re-affirmed my belief that “the proper diagnosis is critical to remediation.”

I now firmly believe that there are three primary gates through which we receive our instruction: the eye gate, the ear gate, and the motor gate. If your child is struggling to learn, then go to the Signs of Auditory & Visual & Motor Processing Deficits Checklist and the Questionnaire and see if my services may be of help to you.

Speech-Language Therapy