Pediatric Speech Therapy Gets Young Patient Back on Track


Children reach developmental milestones at widely varying ages, even within a single family. Every child is unique and each one grows at their own pace, so it’s hard to define exact times when they should be able to do certain things. One sibling might start walking at 9 months of age and another might be closer to age 2.  No one knows about this better than Nora and Phillip Daughtery of Hannibal, Missouri. With four young children, they understand that things will just happen when they happen. But when their youngest child, Deacon, had reached the age of 2 and was still only able to speak in single syllables when trying to talk to his family, Nora and Phillip thought there might be a problem.

An active and engaging toddler, Deacon would become frustrated when trying to get his parents and siblings to understand him. He could understand what they were saying to him, but he couldn’t communicate back. Nora and Phillip met with Deacon’s pediatrician and were referred for speech/language evaluation. In May 2021, Ali Crist met with the Daughterys to develop a plan for Deacon.  Ali is a Speech Therapist with the Pediatric Therapy Department at Hannibal Regional, and she began meeting with Deacon on a weekly basis. Deacon was demonstrating a delay in expressive language and it was also identified that he had a significant tongue tie.  After discussing with the family, Deacon was referred to the ENT to have the tongue tie revised.  While consulting the ENT, it was also identified that Deacon produced significantly more saliva than is normal. The combination of the two could be what was making it difficult for Deacon to communicate clearly.

After having his tongue clipped, Deacon returned to the pediatric speech therapy program at Hannibal Regional. He continued to work on improving his language skills, including increasing his vocabulary, combining words, and eventually using age appropriate sounds in words.  It is a slow process, making sure the basic elements of speech are mastered before moving on to the next level. 

It was six months before Nora and Phillip could notice any real change in Deacon. But they kept with it and he continued to get better. Now within the last five months his mother says she has seen tremendous improvement, and Ali has noticed it too. “It was so frustrating before we started seeing Ali, communication was a real struggle. We could see how hard it was for Deacon, and that’s hard to watch as a parent. Hard for his siblings too,” shares Nora. “It wasn’t something we had to deal with before, so we were in uncharted territory.” 

During Deacon’s treatment, the family had a change in insurance coverage and his therapy was no longer going to be a covered service. At a cost of over $900 each month, the Daughterys had to evaluate whether Deacon would be able to continue his sessions. Then they learned about the scholarships available for pediatric speech therapy at Hannibal Regional made possible through funding from the O.C. Wilson Scottish Rite Club. The mission of the club is to raise funds and support local RiteCare speech therapy services for children 9 years and under who might not otherwise receive treatment they need. Nora and Phillip were thrilled with the news that Deacon was eligible for the scholarship and would be able to continue seeing Ali. “He LOVES going to speech! He gets excited to show Ali something new every week, and we love how she has helped him,” says Nora. “Ali has not only helped him with his speech, she’s also helped him grow behaviorally as well. He’s doing great and now is on track to start kindergarten, just like the other kids his age.”

The O.C. Wilson Scottish Rite Club partners with Hannibal Regional Foundation to host events in the community to raise funds for these scholarships. Their next fundraiser is Casino Royale, which will be held April 21, 2023 at The Rialto in downtown Hannibal. To get tickets, call (573) 248-6367 or (573) 629-3577. For more information about the pediatric speech therapy program at Hannibal Regional, call (573) 406-5777.