Raquel's Story

How an early speech diagnosis and an out-of-the-box approach has had a transformative effect on Raquel’s behavior.

When Raquel first arrived at MLK Montessori, her mother was concerned. Developmentally, Raquel (then age 4) was already years behind her peers. She rarely spoke and—when she would speak—her words were completely unintelligible. She also appeared to struggle to understand others. Although a very loving child, Raquel would often grow extremely frustrated with her communication challenges, hiding under furniture or even screaming and crying. 

Fortunately, MLK Montessori is incredibly unique among preschool programs because it offers comprehensive speech therapy services at no cost to families. After working with Raquel, Toni Blackwood, the speech therapist for MLK, made an interesting discovery. Raquel appeared to suffer from Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). Children with CAPD typically have normal hearing yet struggle to process what they hear and suffer from delayed speech development. 

An official diagnosis is required before CAPD-specific treatment can begin (Raquel’s mother is in the process of having Raquel evaluated by an audiologist). However, in the meantime, Toni decided to try something a little “out of the box.” She had noted that Raquel seemed to understand words better when they were associated with a visual image, so she began introducing sign language to Raquel—and the results have been nothing short of transformative. 

Raquel loves to teach her new signs to her peers in the classroom

Raquel loves to teach her new signs to her peers in the classroom

Each day, Toni teaches Raquel and her teachers several new signs. Not only does Raquel use the sign language to communicate, but she is also beginning to clearly speak the words as she signs them! Learn sign language has also given her the opportunity to play teacher. As Raquel learns new signs, she proudly teaches them to her classmates, who are very eager to learn! According to MLK staff, Raquel has absolutely “blossomed.”

Raquel’s mother, Raven, has also noticed a tremendous difference. At home, Raquel speaks more often and more clearly, and she now happily talks about the friends she has made at school. Raven said, “MLK was really focused on helping my daughter. Instead of just telling me she has a problem, they went above and beyond and really helped find a solution.”