The Children's Institute Blog

Josh Kuznetsov – Better Speech & Hearing Month

Posted: May 31, 2017 by The Children's Institute

Josh Kuznetsov has battled with cerebral palsy, seizure disorder and cortical vision impairment for his entire life. Despite all of this, Josh is an enthusiastic young man eager to converse with others and express his ideas. 

Josh first came to The Children’s Institute when he was only three and started at The Day School while also receiving outpatient speech therapy. It was here that he and his mother Judy Cohen met out-patient therapists Colleen Chester Connelly and Marybeth Trapani-Hanasewych.
Judy said that “They were (and are) both amazing” when asked about the quality of care Josh was receiving. 

Josh started with an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device called a Dynavox, which allows him to use various forms of communication to get his message across. The Dynavox is an AAC device, an electronic machine that reads aloud letters, words and phrases when prompted by a user. This is the most advanced form of communication which allows Josh to talk with others. 

During the first summer he was here, he was able to demonstrate that he could use that device, showing a promising future. Judy even went as far as saying “He proved that he could master the device, using auditory scanning, and we found that accessing the device using a head switch was going to work.” 

There are many challenges with adjusting to an AAC device and one of the most common is frustration due to the patience required to use it. However, this was not a problem for young Josh. He entered the therapy with great enthusiasm and overwhelming support from his mother and therapists. 

When asked about these first interactions, Judy replied “It was always clear to me that Josh had a lot to say, and we finally were working on something that would allow him to share his thoughts, feelings and ideas with the world.”

However, it is the continued use of an AAC that will ultimately help develop these skills. When asked if Josh had made any progress Judy replied “Has he progressed? That is putting it mildly!” 

She also recognized and pointed out that this is not a one day process. Rather, it may take years or decades to master a device, saying “Now don’t get me wrong, it was a long journey to get there. In addition to getting speech therapy to teach him how to use the Dynavox, he also worked with a reading specialist, who taught him spelling and grammar, in addition to the help from his teachers at the Day School. It was definitely a team effort.”

Josh’s most remarkable accomplishment while using his Dynavox is when he discovered how to interact with others over the Internet. This is what Josh enjoyed the most when asked what he liked about the device. “Like I can email. And talk. I can use it like a remote control to change the channels on my tv”, he said. 

Josh is now an adult and continues to communicate with his friends and peers as an “expert auditory scanner” as his mother describes. He still works on his communication, making it better every day, through the help of therapists like Kathy Garret, who helps improve his speed and efficiency, as well as promoting ways for Josh to advocate on his own.

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