Five-year-old Mikaïl has verbal dyspraxia, which makes it difficult for him to communicate with the people around him. After we met him last year, he started treatment with Chloé Dallaire-Dupont, a speech-language pathologist with Sainte-Justine’s Marie Enfant Rehabilitation Centre (CRME). More than 1,200 children just like him are seen through the CRME’s language disorders program every year.

You wouldn’t believe how far Mikaïl has come. It’s like day and night!” said his father, Madjid Cherbal, when we contacted him for an update on his son. The mix of relief, pride and gratitude in his voice was unmistakable.

During our first conversation in January 2019, Mikaïl was just about to start speech therapy. Then only four, he came across as intelligent beyond his years. His earnest, energetic demeanour seemed indicative of his keen desire to make himself understood.

The professionals at the CRME language disorders program are specially trained to help children like Mikaïl and others with various communication problems, including developmental language impairments and stuttering.

Their main mission is to work with young patients to develop their language skills in order to facilitate communication and socialization and help them start or return to school. This requires close collaboration with parents and other key figures in their lives so that everyone across the board has the proper tools to help these children get ahead.

With the support of CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation donors, the team members are constantly broadening their knowledge and enhancing their treatment methods, often aided by state-of-the-art medical technology and even artificial intelligence. In fact, at the time this article was written, a virtual reality project was on the verge of being launched to assess anxiety factors in children with a stutter.

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Papa was the only word Mikaïl could say for the first two or three years of his life. He said maman for the first time when he was three and a half. All that time not being able to communicate was a huge source of frustration for him.

Madjid Cherbal

Mikaïl's father

Verbal dyspraxia is a disorder that hinders a child’s ability to produce speech. It affects one to two children out of 1,000. With this condition, the brain has difficulties getting the tongue, lips and jaw to move correctly for talking. Children know what they want to say but have trouble forming the sounds, syllables and words. Many cases of verbal dyspraxia are also accompanied by a developmental language disorder, which affects approximately 7% of children.

At the Marie Enfant Rehabilitation Centre at CHU Sainte-Justine, qualified professionals such as speech-language pathologist Chloé Dallaire-Dupont are equipped to help children like Mikaïl. Her role is to assess and treat communication, language and speech issues, to help children address or compensate for problems caused by the disorder and encourage greater social integration.

At the end of the day, the idea is to help them develop their language, speech and communication skills so they are more self-sufficient, better able to handle day-to-day life situations and better prepared to deal with key transitions.

Chloé Dallaire-Dupont

Speech-language pathologist at the CRME

When he began therapy at   the CRME, Mikaïl was just about to start kindergarten. The timing could not have been better, according to his father. The progress he made in therapy significantly alleviated his anxiety and facilitated the transition to school life.

We are extremely grateful to Chloé. She gave us so many incredible tools to work with – and all from a very caring place.

Madjid Cherbal

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Mikaïl's first day of school, in September 2019

Chloé is part of a multidisciplinary team within the CRME language disorders program. She works alongside audiologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, specialized educators, social workers and clinical coordinators, who together support families like Mikaïl’s with talent and passion. The unique partnership that develops between these professionals and the families they serve is an important part of the process.

Although the team’s expertise is at the cutting edge, the need to modernize their facilities and work tools is more than pressing than ever.  

We could do so much more if we had additional therapy rooms, a more patient-friendly environment and up-to-date materials for our professionals. That is where donors play a critical role in helping us stay fresh and innovative.

Chloé Dallaire-Dupont

With the new year now well underway, Mikaïl is making tremendous progress and his parents are thrilled. There will still be a number of challenges along his path in the years to come but, with determination and support, his future looks very bright indeed.