“His speech and communication has skyrocketed!”

That’s what Moira says about her son’s experience at Pine Tree Society’s Early Learning Center in Auburn. Miles is four-and-a-half years old and loves to chase his little sister, look at picture books and play with toy cars. He’s very social and makes new friends everywhere he goes.

Before coming to the Early Learning Center, speech was his biggest challenge. He spoke about a dozen words and used a handful of signs. At the Early Learning Center, he has learned to use a computerized device, known as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), to expand his communication. The difference is remarkable.

“He’s so smart and has so much he wants to do and tell. If he can’t find the right word or sign, he now has his device to back him up,” said Karen McClure-Richard, director of the Early Learning Center. “It has opened up a whole new world for him.”

To better prepare preschoolers to enter Kindergarten, the Early Learning Center is collaborating with Pine Tree Society’s speech and occupational therapy team. Speech-language pathologist Katie Beach and occupational therapist Kristin Desrochers are based on-site and work directly with Karen to develop integrated classroom programming.

“This multidisciplinary approach is so helpful for the kids,” said Karen. “And it’s really helping us all to see how much our kiddos are capable of and what more we can do to help them grow.”

As Miles’ speech-language pathologist and AAC specialist, Katie sees the difference this makes for him at school.

“It’s a team effort to ensure Miles can access the best education experience possible,” she said. “He picked right up on how to use his device and it’s exciting to see him expand his world and fully participate in the classroom.”

The more Miles communicates, the more his teachers are able to assess his knowledge of colors, numbers and understanding of basic concepts. He can now make complete sentences on his device and has also added to his spoken vocabulary.

His parents see the difference at home. It’s easier for him to tell them how he feels and what he wants, resulting in much less guesswork on their part. It’s also opened up his ability to communicate with others.

“My husband and I are the only ones who can really understand his spoken words,” added Moria. “With his AAC device, Miles can now talk with anybody. It’s huge.”

Learn more about the Early Learning Center

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