Meet Cooper - Preschool Services
"My Cooper is still in there!"
Cooper is a vibrant, inquisitive, caring and empathetic five-year-old boy. But most importantly, Cooper is inspirational and his mother’s hero. Cooper has overcome so many obstacles in his short five years. He battled severe milk protein intolerance at 5-weeks old which led to severe RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), as well as pneumonia, bronchiolitis, reflux and numerous other infections, all during his first year of life.
To this day, Cooper still battles RAD (Reactive Airway Disease) which is an after-effect of battling RSV.
What makes Cooper even more inspirational to his mom, Meghan, is his tenacity and determination while learning to cope with Global Body Dyspraxia, Apraxia of Speech, and Sensory Processing Disorder.
Both Dyspraxia and Apraxia are neurological conditions, affecting fine motor skills, as well as oral-motor skills and speech development. Holding a pencil or a crayon were difficult tasks, along with walking, jumping, and climbing. Cooper’s speech abilities were hindered by difficulty coordinating his mouth movements, facial muscles and tongue to form sounds and words. His neurological conditions also affected the way Cooper organized his thoughts and processed information. With Cooper’s Sensory Processing Disorder added to the mix – noises, smells, touch, light, clothing tags, textures and foods became overwhelming, over-stimulating, and frightening.
Learning to manage his disorders was a daunting task for Cooper and his family. Imagine being a small
child trying to take in and process the world with all of its stimuli and not being equipped to communicate back; not being able to properly move your body, verbally respond, or make sense of it all. All of this was both frightening and exhausting leaving his mother saying, “So what do you do as a parent?” Cooper’s
mom needed to find the VERY BEST team, not only to help Cooper grow and learn new skills, but also to teach him how to cope within his world and provide him the tools to deal with his unique challenges.
Needing outside support became apparent when Cooper was about a year and a half old. He became stoic, quiet and stopped babbling; no longer the happy, smiling, giggling baby with a glimmer of mischief in his eyes. Cooper was often frustrated and rarely showed he was happy. Even his first word, “Dada”, disappeared. His mom became increasingly concerned over what was happening and how challenging it was becoming for Cooper to achieve his pediatric milestones. After consulting with his pediatrician and discussing the “big picture,” Cooper’s mom made an appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist and with a Doctor of Audiology. "They backed up what I already knew, Rochester Hearing and Speech Center was what Cooper needed," his mom comment. And so just like that, Cooper’s journey with Rochester Hearing and Speech began!
Hearing loss was ruled out for Cooper, but by his second birthday, not seeing significant improvement, his mother met with a Monroe County Early Intervention Service Coordinator and requested further evaluation. Rochester Hearing and Speech Center assessed Cooper’s speech-language development, cognitive and adaptive skills. Results indicated a need for speech services, and in the fall of 2016, Cooper began in-home Early Intervention Speech Therapy with a Licensed Speech-Language Pathologist from Rochester Hearing and Speech Center. Within a few sessions, his mother saw progress. She saw the glimmer in Cooper’s eyes return, “My Cooper is still in there!” his mother stated. Speech sessions incorporated play-based therapy and use of sign language as a tool for communication. Within two short months, Cooper was able to communicate that he was thirsty, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and indicate
when he was hungry – he was finally experiencing relief from his communication frustration. Slowly he mastered more and more sounds and words.
By the fall of 2017 Cooper had made enough progress that his mom felt it was time for Cooper to participate in a 3-year-old preschool classroom and have the opportunity to interact with other kids his own age. This meant a new classroom, a new Speech-Language Pathologist, and a move to getting his speech therapy in Rochester Hearing and Speech Center’s clinic setting rather than at home.
Throughout therapy, Cooper’s therapists closely monitored his progress, as an initial evaluation can often
be just the beginning of a diagnostic process, with more definitive diagnoses arising from therapeutic observation. In the spring of 2018, Cooper was re-evaluated and formally diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech and his parents started to see his path to overcoming remaining obstacles come
fully to light.
Still trusting Rochester Hearing and Speech Center to provide the very best services, although summer services were not covered by his school district, Cooper’s mother requested to do private pay services and he continued therapy throughout the summer months to guard against any backsliding in Cooper’s progress.
And what progress Cooper made that summer! The therapy he had received up to that point had laid the groundwork – and Cooper had done the hard work of building the foundational skills he needed to thrive. He was poised for a terrific growth spurt in his skills, and his world changed that summer. His first meeting with his new summer therapist, Deb Cecere, was nothing short of magic! He was making great leaps and bounds. Deb instilled a sense of calmness and confidence in Cooper that allowed him to open up and try new things. She also advocated for Cooper to be further evaluated for his sensory processing and motor skill concerns, which led to him receiving Occupational Therapy, and eventually Physical Therapy.
It was such a relief for Cooper’s family to have answers – and what it meant to Cooper! Cooper looked forward to going to his sessions with Deb, and his parents were grateful for the additional ideas to work on with him at home. When it came time to be assigned a Physical Therapist, his SLP, Deb, said she had the perfect person – Dr. Sara Calus, also at Rochester Hearing and Speech Center. Cooper’s mom knew that if Deb was making a suggestion it was in Cooper’s best interest. Once again, Cooper’s parents were blown away when Cooper started his physical therapy with Sara. His mother stated, “Sara is equally as gifted as Deb, tapping into Cooper and getting him to complete his tasks and exercises.” Some days were hard, but Sara knew it was imperative he learn to do things on his own.
Finally, after all of this time, Cooper was coming out of his shell. Cooper’s home was filled with conversations, laughter and hugs, and Cooper was having fewer meltdowns. This was what Deb had promised his family the very first day, and they were finally okay! In fact they were more than okay; they were a stronger, more resilient family!
And just like that, the spring of 2019 was approaching and Cooper would be eligible for kindergarten by the following fall. After much contemplation his parents decided to have him repeat his 4-year-old Pre-K class. Cooper continued private pay services at Rochester Hearing and Speech Center in the summer leading up to the 2019-2020 school year. Again, Deb and Sara fought to ensure Cooper would get all the services he needed in his 4-year-old Pre-K class. But this time around, although he still needed support, Cooper was a completely different kid – he had even learned how to ride a bike! His parents were thrilled at the progress Cooper had made during his time at Rochester Hearing and Speech Center.
Transitioning to the preschool setting was a signal of independence for the family and they also knew it would be bitter-sweet and emotional for everyone involved. Cooper had learned that change is not always bad and with it comes growth – something he had learned during his therapy sessions. Cooper is well prepared for the next chapter in his life due to all that Rochester Hearing and Speech Center provided.
This is especially due to the collaboration of all his therapists, especially during his summer session.
“What Deb Cecere and Dr. Sara Calus have given Cooper is priceless. They changed his trajectory in life for the better. Saying thank you most certainly isn’t enough for unearthing the caring, inquisitive empathetic little boy he is and giving him back to me.
To Deb and Sara, your gift is amazing.
God bless you and thank you for sharing your gift and helping Cooper! Without you Cooper would not be who he is today! We will see you soon for summer services to help prepare
for the 2020-2021 school year!”
– Meghan, Cooper's Mom