OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — An East Tennessee toddler went from not speaking at all, just making sounds, to talking in sentences. The amazing turnaround is thanks in part to her early intervention therapy at Emory Valley Center.
3-year-old Presley Laveque is at or above her age group in developmental tests. She’s an inquisitive little girl, eager to see how certain toys work, but not that long ago, it was another story.
“She’s a completely different child, ” her mother Constance Laveque told us. “I would not have imagined we would be where we are today when we first started.”
Presley’s mom set up home therapy with early interventionalist Katie Wood of Emory Valley Center because she suspected Presley might be on the autism spectrum.
“A big one was language,” Laveque said, “Because Presley was not talking when we first met Katie. She was not making your typical ‘goo goo gah gah mama dada’ baby sounds, so we really needed Presley to communicate with us if she wanted juice or if she wanted more of something.”
Presley is one of five kids in the family. Her brother Christopher, now ten, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 7. The Leveque family wanted to get an earlier start with Presley.
“When we first started, ” Katie Wood said, “her parents and I would not have been surprised if she did get a diagnosis.”
Watching a video with mom eating ice cream, you can see that Presley, while a happy little girl, wasn’t speaking at the time.
But it turns out, it was not autism. Presley simply had trouble hearing due to fluid in her ear which came as a total shock to her family.
“She hadn’t been sick with ear infections, she just wasn’t draining the fluid properly,” Leveque said. “The doctor actually said it sounded like she was underwater. That’s what it would sound like to her.”
Wood said, “When I first started with her, she had very few words and then started speaking in sentences really saying words shortly after getting tubes in her ears.”
Speaking in sentences, and counting to ten, Presley is making her mother proud and grateful.
“She was 2 and a half before I heard “mama” for the first time, so it was great,” Laveque said with a smile. “I didn’t think I’d ever hear it!”
We learned Presley also likes to say, “Bye-bye, everybody!”
Everyone working together for Presley thought her hearing should be checked after efforts to help her speak kept failing.
Vanderbilt’s Autism Institute evaluated her, confirming she is not on the spectrum.
Children qualify for Tennessee Early Intervention Services if they have a delay of 40% in one area of development or 20% in two areas.
For more information about Emory Valley Center’s services, visit www.emoryvalleycenter.org