Emirati boy speaks for the first time at age 8

Suhail, 8, who has so much to say, is refining his language skills and oral muscle strength as part of an ongoing speech therapy programme.
Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: An eight-year-old Emirati child, suffering from a severe speech disability, was finally able to speak and speak for the first time in his life after undergoing a specialised speech therapy programme for six months at the Al Mushrif Specialised Centre for Children in Abu Dhabi, affiliated to the Ambulatory Therapeutic Services Network under the PureHealth Group.

The child, Suhail, was diagnosed with epilepsy, dysarthria and oral dysphagia when he was three years old. Despite undergoing various treatments over the past five years, he was only able to manage sounds and short syllables, which limited his ability to express himself clearly. He also had difficulties eating.

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Millions around the world suffer from this condition, with epilepsy affecting approximately one in 200 school-age children, while estimates indicate that dysarthria affects approximately one in 1,000 children. Dysarthria is associated with a deficiency in the muscle functions specialised in speech and swallowing, as a result of weakness in these muscles and the inability to coordinate between them.

After an initial examination and assessment, Emadaddin Ali Al Rababah, Speech Therapist at Al Mushrif Children’s Specialty Centre in Abu Dhabi and Al Towayya Children’s Specialty Centre in Al Ain, crafted a tailored treatment plan for Suhail. It comprised three sessions per week over six months. Doctors adopted a systematic and comprehensive approach to the treatment, following a set of clear goals and reported a significant improvement in Suhail after just one week of treatment.

Through the programme, Suhail’s oral muscle strength, range of motion and speech production skills saw remarkable improvement. He began to articulate mono and multi-syllabic words, chew solid foods with more ease, and managed his saliva control more effectively. Today, Suhail continues to refine his language skills and oral muscle strength as part of an ongoing speech therapy programme.

Dr Fawaghi Al Naqbi, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at AHS, said: “We are delighted by the progress Suhail has made in such a short space of time under the care of our team at the at Al Mushrif Children’s Specialty Centre. The treatment’s success reflects Suhail’s determination as well as the range and quality of expertise in AHS’s network of speciality clinics.”

Al Rababah said: “Thanks to Suhail’s determination and his parents’ commitment to the sessions, his ability to speak has improved. He is now assimilated back into everyday life and using his speech to express himself at home. This case is a testament to AHS’s ability to leverage leading expertise, cutting-edge techniques and some of the latest innovations available.”

Suhail’s newfound ability to communicate has profoundly impacted his life and that of his family. According to the family, “Before treatment, Suhail’s condition was difficult in terms of speech and swallowing, as he would not speak unless he needed something and used crying as a way to express what he wanted to say. This condition was difficult for us because we wanted to understand exactly what he wanted.

“But in the first week of treatment with Dr Emad, we noticed a big difference in Suhail’s condition. He began to say some letters, and today, we see a very significant development in his condition. He can now pronounce words and talk to us. We are very happy with this improvement, and we thank everyone who spared no effort to support Suhail and help us understand his condition and how to deal with it.”