December 1, 2013 Columns

First Person on the Last Page: Surviving and Thriving on the Other Side of the Table

This SLP learned the tough way what it’s like to be a parent whose child needs services.

Carly Folger-Bumgarner, MS, CCC-SLP with her son, Easton

I pride myself on being a mother. When I had my first baby I thought I automatically joined the ranks of the families I worked with because now I, too, had a child. But it does not work that way. As a speech-language pathologist you are on one side of the table—and gaining the perspective of the other side is something that can be learned only the hard way.

On May 21, 2012, I started a journey to the "other side of the table." That was the day my twins were born. I had healthy full-term twins, but unfortunately my son, Easton, had issues: jaundice, latching problems, colic. I quit eating gluten, dairy, eggs, citrus and tomatoes. I taught Easton to latch. I weighed him two times a week and frequently consulted with a nutritionist and a pediatrician.

At Easton's one-month checkup, I heard the words "failure to thrive," which did not resonate well with me. Around this time I started noticing Easton was not responding to noise, would not look at my face, and was very unhappy. I had him evaluated by the Children's Developmental Services Agency when he was 3 months old. I am familiar with the CDSA, as I am one of the agency's SLPs. Easton was evaluated by my colleagues—the people who threw me a baby shower, the people I eat lunch with, the people I rely on to help break bad news. Now I was on the other side of the table and it was terrifying.

Easton was diagnosed with a sensory disturbance, hypotonia and mixed development. He failed his vision screening. They recommended he receive occupational therapy and visit an ophthalmologist. We also were introduced to an individualized family service plan and a service coordinator. I cried.

The ophthalmologist visit revealed Easton had moderate farsightedness, which allowed him visually impaired services. Then a follow-up ophthalmology appointment, only one month later, revealed his vision was fine. With the new diagnosis of visual maturation delay, the services were discontinued.

Next, we started OT. I did infant massage, I swaddled and I made things visually stimulating. I dyed my blonde hair dark brown and started wearing bright red lipstick. This kid was going to look at me. Then he did. He even smiled. He started eating better, sleeping better and playing better. OT was short-lived. Then we started physical therapy and that is where we stand now. As I come up on Easton's six-month review, I reflect on being on the other side of the table. We still have a way to go, but to be honest, I feel blessed to say I am an SLP who has been on both sides. I have gained a different perspective for what I do and luckily have Easton to thank for this experience!

Carly Folger-Bumgarner, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist for Burke Pediatric Therapy in Morganton, N.C. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood.

cite as: Folger-Bumgarner, C. (2013, December 01). First Person on the Last Page: Surviving and Thriving on the Other Side of the Table. The ASHA Leader.


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