When Patrick was two years old, he was quieter than his sister was at that age but it wasn’t until his mom, Tiziana, was talking to a colleague that she realized that there could be more than just a personality difference between her children. Tiziana raised her concerns with their paediatrician and Patrick was referred for an assessment. The six month wait for the assessment was very difficult for Tiziana and she felt her share of guilt for not raising concerns earlier. Patrick was identified as having motor speech difficulties and speech delay and started therapy immediately with the York Region Preschool Speech and Language Program which is administered by Markham Stouffville Hospital’s (MSH) Child Development Program (CDP).

“Patrick had amazing speech therapists. They were very patient with him and made therapy easy and enjoyable. It was never a struggle to get him to go to therapy,” says Tiziana.

“He took pride in completing his homework and in his successes.”

Family involvement is essential in supporting children with developmental delays – it’s not just about therapy, but the work and support at home that will help with significant improvements for the child. Many families need to support their child with speech and language difficulties throughout their lives, and the earlier that delays are identified, the earlier therapy can begin, which positively impacts the child’s development. “If you seek help, you need to become part of the therapy,” says Tiziana. “Getting help early makes all the difference. You’re in good hands when you’re getting the help you need.”

Lauren Rossi was Patrick’s speech language pathologist and remembers him fondly as the little curly haired boy with the biggest personality who always brought a smile to her face. Patrick worked hard both in therapy and with home exercises and he experienced many successes throughout his time in the program. “He took pride in completing his homework and in his successes,” says Tiziana. “People would comment on how much his articulation and language development improved.”

“They were the best of friends, he was always happy to see her.”

With Patrick going to Lauren for therapy weekly and providing guidance for homework in between therapy blocks, she became like family. “They were the best of friends, he was always happy to see her,” says Tiziana. “This helped get us through the program – we didn’t notice the day to day struggles, just the gains Patrick was making with each block of therapy.”

Empowering families and giving them the tools they need to support their child is crucial in building a learning environment that will help the child succeed. “Supporting Patrick was very gratifying because the work we did together helped improve the trajectory of his development,” says Lauren. She was able to give Patrick and his family the support they needed early on to develop the foundation to build his skills. Patrick continues to use these skills as he faces new challenges to ensure he can clearly communicate with his teachers and classmates.

Now at the age of eight, Patrick still has to work on his articulation, reading, and language skills. After completing the York Region Preschool Speech and Language Program, he was referred to the Speech and Stuttering Institute and still sees a speech pathologist every three months.

It is important to recognize a developmental delay in a young child early to get the therapy help the child needs. If there is any doubt about a child’s ability to achieve their developmental milestones, families need to talk to their family physician and get on the list for an assessment. Developmental delays can include speech, hearing or vision – all of which the MSH CDP has been supporting families with for decades. Two decades in fact – that is how long the York Region Preschool Speech and Language Program has been providing assessments and therapy to thousands of children close to home.

There are many tools and resources for families on the CDP website to help with identifying delays and to support children before and during their involvement with the program.