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Oliver and familyOliver Wheeler was a typical cute, cuddly baby. But as he approached his second birthday his parents started to notice that he wasn’t talking. Oliver would point to what he wanted or needed, but when his parents couldn’t understand his non-verbal communication Oliver would break down.

Hailey, Oliver’s mom, also noticed that he would often become overwhelmed and overstimulated within minutes of being in a new environment, like a store.  “It got so bad that we stopped leaving the house,” says Hailey.

seeking help

That’s when they decided to seek help from their pediatrician. The pediatrician agreed that Oliver needed further assessment and referred him for a hearing test. The test results showed that Oliver did not have impaired hearing.

Oliver and his family went on with their daily routines for a few months until one day, Oliver’s aunt took him to the store to buy a toy. Oliver quickly became overwhelmed and his aunt didn’t know what to do. She turned her back for two seconds and Oliver took off. It took her and three employees 15 minutes to find him. Oliver had gone to the front of the store near the doors. He never once responded to his name being called.

After that terrifying day, Hailey refused to let Oliver be away from her. She even restructured her job to work part-time and stopped letting anyone babysit. She also sought help again from her pediatrician and Oliver was again referred for a hearing test. But this time he was also referred for a speech evaluation.

therapy

“Slowly, but surely, with each new speech therapy session, Oliver said a few words where before it would just be babble,” says Hailey. Oliver was diagnosed with mixed expressive/receptive language disorder. Mixed expressive/receptive language disorder is a communication disorder in which both the receptive and expressive areas of communication may be affected in any degree, from mild to severe. Children with this disorder have difficulty understanding words and sentences. In speech therapy, Oliver’s therapist, Tina, found ways to really engage him and he opened up.

When Oliver turned three, he was off to preschool with an individualized educational plan (IEP) and 30 words under his belt. An IEP is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified receives specialized instruction and related services.Oliver and mom at therapy with masks on

COVID-19 strikes

Over the next year, Covid-19 changed the way healthcare was delivered. Masks were mandated and speech therapy went to video visits. Oliver stopped talking again, a major setback for the Wheeler family.

Then came summer 2020 and Oliver started occupational therapy with occupational therapist, Kirsten, to address his sensory sensitivities. Each week, Oliver made progress. He would let his hands stay dirty a little longer, take his shoes and socks off a little easier, and let his parents brush his hair without a tantrum or fight.

Oliver returned for another year of preschool, now four-years-old, and thrived. His speech continued to progress with the end of mask mandates at school and he hasn’t stopped talking since. Oliver even attended his classmate's birthday party and knew everyone by name, when just the year before he couldn't tell you his own name.

“Looking back to how Oliver was nearly three years ago, he is a completely different kid thanks to the therapists at Dayton Children’s”, says Hailey.