Friday, August 19, 2016

Allergies Can Cause Hearing Distortion & Speech Problems in Toddlers

When my son, Carter, was a toddler, I couldn't help noticing that he did not react to my voice or loud sounds and rarely looked me in the eye. He would line up his toys and play alone, oblivious of who was around him. He would startle until I grasped his little hands to get him to look at me. By age two and a half, the age his sister was babbling multiple clear words, my son's words were few and mostly unintelligible.

I was very concerned, so I pointed it out to our First Steps nurse. First Steps is Missouri's Early Intervention system that provides services to families with children, birth to three years of age, with disabilities or developmental delays. To calm my fears about Autism, she referred me to a neurologist, an allergist and a speech pathologist. 

Although my son passed all of his Autism tests, the SLP tests gave me a long list of sounds my son couldn't make. The practitioner commented that his speech was like that of someone speaking underwater. However, she noticed Carter spoke much better when she used a microphone, which told us the problem was his ears, not his brain.

The allergist ran a battery of skin scratch tests, revealing that my son was allergic to a lot of airborne stuff, like tree and grass pollen, cats, feathers, dust mites and mold. He found that my son's ear passages and sinuses were full of fluid, most likely his body's response to allergens in the air. Right after his third birthday, my son was hospitalized to have drainage tubes installed in both ears. 

On the way home from the hospital, my son looked me squarely in the eye and said, "Mommy, you sound funny." Within a week, we noticed him being more social and reactive to sound and music, joining his sister in dancing to their Disney video soundtracks. The SLP said Carter was making good progress with his speech therapy, which we continued for a full year to help him catch up with the other kids in his preschool.  The ear drainage tubes, combined with ear plugs for pool and bath time and allergy meds for playing outside, worked well in place for two years. By the time he was old enough for kindergarten, Carter no longer had any speech difficulties. With his hearing and speech restored, he was selected for our school district's Talented And Gifted (TAG) elementary and middle school programs. 

As a teenager and later in college, Carter has attracted a big circle of friends, loves concerts and attends every school dance he can.  

If you are a parent with any questions or concerns about your child's mental and communications progress, start with a call to Missouri First Steps, at  866-583-2392. Center for Hearing & Speech can then assist you with SLP evaluations to ensure that your child's communication skills are developed to their full potential; call us at 314-968-4710.

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