October 1, 2013 Columns

First Person on the Last Page: A Different Kind of Murphy's Law

After years of speech intervention and no speech, all this little girl needed was some puppy love.

Kathryn J. Samples, MS, CCC-SLP

Lilly Biagini, now 5, came to us through an Early Start program at age 26 months. She then enrolled at the Scottish Rite Children's Language and Learning Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., to continue speech-language services.

When I first met Lilly, she was quiet, but had a beautiful smile. As I got to know her better, her fun-loving spirit came through. Still, her expressive language and speech intelligibility were significantly delayed. She had very strong receptive language skills, but chose not to use oral language. The result was poor social skills.

A compounding problem for Lilly is her diagnosis of arthrogryposis multiplex congenita dysplasia, which prevents her from walking. As a result, she had to be carried everywhere, set into a chair, and placed on the floor to be mobile. Lilly has since been fitted with a wheelchair.

I rescued my dog, Murphy, approximately two years ago when he was just 6 months old. On a hunch, I decided to introduce Lilly to Murphy as a new approach to getting Lilly to become more verbal. Lilly's mother was skeptical, as Lilly had displayed a fear of dogs in the past. The day came to try this new approach during a treatment session. Murphy approached carefully and slowly as if he understood his critical job. He crawled over to Lilly and lay down by her side. Lilly started to smile, and within seconds, she reached out to him. They became instant friends! This experience for Lilly was the dramatic start of her talking. Her expressive language exploded, her social language improved, and she is now ready for dismissal from speech intervention after approximately two years.

Lilly often requests to see Murphy. When they meet, Murphy still greets her down on the floor. When he is not present, Lilly has a song she sings.

Hey, Murphy, Hey, Murphy
I love you so much.
Hey, Murphy, Hey, Murphy
Come with me.

Murphy, the rescue dog, rescued Lilly and to this day has had the most influence on Lilly's progress. Nothing that a little puppy love can't do.

Kathryn J. Samples, MS,CCC-SLP, is a partner at Santa Rosa Speech and Language Services in Santa Rosa, Calif., and on the staff of Santa Rosa Scottish Rite Children's Language and Learning Center. katiespeech@gmail.com

cite as: Samples, K. J. (2013, October 01). First Person on the Last Page: A Different Kind of Murphy's Law. The ASHA Leader.


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