A Team Approach for Thomas

Little boy lays smiling on the couch with stuffed toys.

Four-year-old Thomas has conditions that cause strokes and tumors. He lives with complications and limitations caused by them, and his parents work hard to ensure his needs for comfort, communication, and safety are met. It’s difficult, and it’s very expensive.

“It’s really hard,” Mom Brittany shared. “The things that Thomas needs, they’re big things. When you’re looking at multiple things costing ten and twenty thousand dollars, you can maybe do one if you have a good income. That’s why I’m so grateful to MonTECH. We can ask to borrow some of these things, Tumble Form chairs, switches and adapted toys. Having that available to us has been a real blessing.”

Parents, speech students, and MonTECH staff all sit on the floor around Thomas helping him with a communication device.Brittany and husband Rob are both educators and have excellent family support. Still, the expenses have been overwhelming and benefits are limited. Last summer, Thomas had a stroke that affected his language center, but there were no speech benefits to tap. Then Brittany heard about an aphasia program at the University of Montana’s School of Speech, Language, Hearing, and Occupational Sciences.

Professor Mina May arranged a week of intensive work with Thomas, incorporating mornings with MonTECH to explore switch control, communication, and seating options. Brittany was grateful for the team approach. “The thing with Thomas, he doesn’t just have speech issues but also physical issues,” she explained. “So, what is a speech issue, and what’s a placement issue, and what’s a positioning issue, or a vision issue? There was a lot of troubleshooting to figure out what would be best for him. It was so cool to be a part of that.”

Although the high point for the star of the show was likely meeting the Griz football team, this partnership between Thomas’ parents, the speech team, and MonTECH meant professional, focused trial-and-error to find the right equipment for an important and beloved child. “I learned a lot,” Brittany said. “The amount of time everyone put into Thomas was incredible.”

[MonTECH is Montana’s assistive technology loan program. Contact us to discuss your challenges and receive free 1:1 help and free loans of equipment: (406) 243-5511, montech@mso.umt.edu.]