GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – From understanding what a teacher is saying to asking simple questions in class communication is the base of student success. However, for many children suffering from speech and language disorders communication actually stands in the way.
Speech and language pathologist Rachel Jarvey has a passion for teaching kids those skills to succeed not only in class, but in life.
“Kids need to function in the classroom, but they also need to function with their peers. They need to function with their families without those frustrations of basic communication. That’s where we come in,” Jarvey said. “The first time a child is able to take pictures and make a sentence and get what he or she wants – it brings tears to my eyes.”
Jarvey uses pictures, sign language, growing technology and a variety of other techniques with these kids. Parents and coworkers say Jarvey goes above and beyond when it comes to her students. She attends conferences, seminars and even gives out her personal number to families struggling with communication issues.
Jarvey’s passion to give kids the power of language is reflected in her student’s successes.
Blayze Gellin is your typical 13-year-old. His family says he’s a good hearted kid who’s always quick with a joke. But finding the words to deliver a clever one liner was not always so simple.
“Blayze’s doctors pretty much told him that he wasn’t going to talk and I said, nope, I don’t agree with that,” Jarvey said.
Blayze’s struggle to communicate started at birth, according to his mom Barb Gellin. At just 13-months-old Barb was told to prepare her son for a life of silence.
“Being non-verbal, he wasn’t a good eater, didn’t have a whole lot of tongue movement, no lip movement,” Barb said. “They did testing and they did find that he was diagnosed with apraxia.”
Apraxia is a neurological condition. Jarvey describes it as a disruption between what your brain wants your mouth to do and what your mouth wants to do.
From age three to fifth grade Blayze and Jarvey worked to find his voice through an intensive oral motor program with exercises focusing on how he uses his mouth. They both say it was a long journey filled with frustration, set backs and triumph.
“Sometimes I felt like I was going to give up because there was no hope for me and then she stuck by my side and I got so far that I couldn’t give up,” Blayze said.
“Tears shed, there were multiple phone calls,” Barb said. “She gave Blayze a voice and for that… we can never repay what she gave us.”
Without Jarvey’s dedication, patience and heart of gold, Barb says Blayze would not be enjoying life the way he does now.
“He has a lot to say and because of her he says it,” Barb said.
Blayze sees his success is in the every day communications we so often take for granted.
“I can talk to my friends and yell at my brother and fight with him,” Blayze said.
Overcoming motor disorders is no easy road, but with dedicated speech therapists such as Rachel Jarvey in our schools kids can find their own voice too.
“It’s a lot more common than people think,” Jarvey said. “It’s hard work, but it’s not something you need to give up hope on. There is hope and kids will succeed if they have it. Blayze is living proof.”