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Late talking is no big deal for some children, but for others, it comes with speech difficulty and frustration.

The problem can be turned around. Just ask 5-year-old Aylin Welch.

"Really, she wasn't talking very much at all, and when she was, even her parents and her family members were having a hard time understanding her," speech-language pathologist Machelle Cathey said. 

"It even got to the point where she was frustrated," Aylin's mother said. "She would just be irritated, almost depressed in a sense the fact she couldn't communicate."

At age 2, Aylin began speech therapy at Mission's Reuter Outpatient Center. Play-based activity over the years has helped her produce the sounds she lacked.

The second most common reason for special education services in public schools is speech/ language impairment. But in some cases, early intervention can reverse or even prevent these impairments. Early intervention helps children develop communication skills during periods of high neuroplasticity, when the brain is best able to form neural connections that lead to learning. Every dollar spent in the early years can save seven dollars in future education and services. Caregivers often request speech therapy when children are not using words, are not combining words into sentences or are using speech that is difficult to understand.

As a pediatrician, my favorite question to ask my young patients is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A typical 4-year-old girl will confidently say, “I want to be a teacher, a nurse, a dancer and a singer.” She is fully convinced she will do all of them. Anything and everything is possible in her eyes. Sadly, this confidence withers away in children who experience the trauma of abuse and neglect.

You’re probably reading this because you know someone who has been diagnosed with autism. Or, maybe you suspect someone close to you has autism, and you’re not sure what to do. That’s not surprising because the Center for Disease Control estimates that one in every 68 American children is diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), which is a developmental disability that can cause social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is no cure for ASD. Autism affects the way a child perceives the world around them and can make communication and social interactions more difficult from what we think of as normal.

The WLOS News 13 Person of the Week is a woman who's found her calling using her maternal instinct to fill a void for local families. Melissa Brown finally sees vital signs of optimism for her son Aidan at Mission's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The 6-week-old was born prematurely and only weighed 4 pounds at birth. "It's a little defect right next to the umbilical chord," mother Melissa said. "His intestines are outside of his body." Even super moms face the fact that they're mere mortals; mothers are often guilt ridden when they have to leave their child in the NICU. "You don't wanna think about your baby lying in a crib -- it is heartbreaking," Brown said.

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