A Home Away From Home at Therapy
When his sons asked to invite their speech pathologist to their summer pool party, Isreal Brownlow Jr. knew his family had found a special place in Sentara Therapy Center Pediatrics Newtown. For nearly 13 years, all three of his sons have attended weekly speech therapy sessions at the center.
"My son Isreal III will ask about therapy every night before bed," says Isreal. "The therapy team has become a part of our family and we don't see them as just therapists anymore."
The Brownlow brothers – Jonathan, 20, Isreal, 19 and Nicholas, 17 – have autism, a developmental disorder that affects their ability to communicate, learn and socialize. Each week, they eagerly anticipate their sessions with speech pathologist James Thoms.
Over the years, James has worked with the brothers on their expressive, pragmatic and receptive language delays. Many people with autism experience communication challenges and speech therapy plays an important role in improving language and social skills.
During their sessions, they focus on increasing sentence length and structure, using sign language, following directions, providing details, and improving social language, like peer interaction and turn-taking. Each of these skills will help the brothers with daily living activities and transitioning into the workforce.
"I have seen them grow from being non-verbal with very difficult transitions along with needing maximum cues to start or complete a task to now they can all communicate, answer questions and follow directions," explains James.
Each brother has made remarkable progress. Jonathan loves to cook and can make his own meals from start to finish. Nicholas utilizes 5-6-word phrases now and is excelling in school. Isreal has increased his sentence length from no words to 3-4 words consistently. All three boys have household chores and daily expectations around the house.
"Communication and teamwork are key," says Isreal. "It's a team effort at home, at therapy and at school and everybody works together for the success of the boys."
Isreal also enjoys seeing his sons interact with the staff at the center and appreciates how they go out of their way to make them feel comfortable.
"They make it so welcoming for the parents and kids who spend a lot of time there each week," he says. "The ladies at the front desk are always friendly and make an effort to learn details about the boys that make them feel special."
When the family had to move to Williamsburg for a year, they faced a tough decision regarding whether to start therapy at a new location. They ultimately decided it was worth the 57-mile drive each way to continue therapy with James and maintain stability in the boy's lives.
James happily accepted his invitation to the family's pool party. He admires how Isreal and his wife have never treated their sons as if they have a disability and how they encourage them to experience life to the fullest.
"The patience and kindness they both show can only be explained as magical," he says.
The Brownlow family is proud of the progress each brother has made. "We have this burden that we're dealing with but we have come tremendously far," says Isreal. "We tell the boys not to let anyone steal their joy."