When we first started on our journey toward helping Damion find his voice, he was just a little over age 2. He had regressed to using less than 5 words and even the words that he used were more like basic sounds that we knew but no one else would (i.e., “ga” for good). It wasn’t long before we tried our hand at Speech and Language therapy. Once we jumped through all the testing and referral hoops, we were set to start sessions at our local hospital.
Using our local hospital (looking back not the best place to start) but either way we dove in. We were set up for 30 minutes sessions once per week. I’d never done therapy so I wasn’t sure what to expect. A very nice young girl walked us back to a room which had plenty of toy options. Damion was all over the place. We spent half the session just getting him somewhat calmed down. Once we got him settled, she worked on trying to make him say “bubble”. She would say bubble, and he would pay no attention. She would emphasize saying bubble, he would pay no attention. She would blow a bubble, and say bubble. He would look at the bubble and pay no attention to her. We did essentially this same thing for 6 weeks’ worth of sessions, before I threw in the towel. This was not worth my time, it sure wasn’t worth paying over $100 per session. I was discouraged to say the least.
I talked to my county rep that was providing us play project at the time and she agreed that speech therapy services would likely be more beneficial later on. We were beginners on play project at that time as well but she explained that this play project would help build engagement, and once he reached a higher level, speech services would be far more productive. (For more details on Play Project click here). I agreed, but still wanted a way to try and help promote speech as much as I could at home, and that is when my mother-in-law mentioned Gemiini to me.
She had seen an ad about it on Facebook or something. I’m always a bit skeptical of ads like those but checking out the site it looked promising. Gemiini was basically an online speech therapy service that was made to help keep the engagement of little ones on the spectrum. Definity something that looked like it at least deserved a try. So, I signed up. At that time, it was about $100 a month which sounds like a lot but anyone who has ever ponied up the money for in person therapies know that is a drop in the bucket. Right now, however it looks like they have a special where you can get it at $59 per month! (Financial aid is also available but I am not sure on all those details).
My first impression was that it was kind of strange, not like other therapies I was used to. The session started with a very random video of a child playing, then it switched a picture completely unrelated to the video that was shown most of the time. Then, they would have a person saying what the picture was slowly, annunciating every sound. The camera would then zoom in on the persons mouth as they said the word again. The remainder of the video consisted of them moving between these random videos and these pictures and people saying what the pictures were. The randomness was probably what felt so odd to me but as I watched the video and watched Damion, it seemed like the videos thrown in there were doing a great job at helping keep his attention, which was so much of the struggle for us in regular speech therapy. There must be something to it. So, we kept with it.
The biggest downside we had with the Gemiini system for us, was that it ran through a website. As I’ve mentioned before, we live in the middle of nowhere, so good internet speeds are not easy to come by. Some days we seem to be able to stream on multiple devices no problem. Then other times our internet slows to what seems like the days of dial-up. We do have the capabilities of streaming, but even so, some things seem to stream better than others. I am far from techy enough to understand why that might be, but the fact is that we had a lot of issues with the system freezing up. When the freeze up would happen, Damion would lose interest. Internet based meant we could access it anywhere, so we did our best to try and turn it on where service speeds ran faster. But eventually over time, we did end up canceling the subscription. The main reason being obviously that our internet just couldn’t support it at our house.
I feel like I should put a disclaimer as well that our trial with Gemiini was a few years back. We had an active subscription to the program for a little over a year but our participation was most consistent in the first 6 months. The website explanation on their page looks very similar to what we did. However, there is a good chance that they have made some changes or improvements to the program since our use.
Now, I have always said that I am never one to put all my eggs in one basket. We try a lot of things and sometimes those things overlap. Great it many ways, except for when it comes to giving credit. Did Gemiini help with his speech? I think so. How much? It’s hard to say exactly. But what I will say is that his very limited engagement level at age 2 (far lower than the engagement level for a neurotypical 2-year-old), speech progress through Gemiini was a better bang for our buck than private, in-person, speech therapy. Don’t get me wrong, in-person speech therapy (through a place that specialized in children) has been a CRUCIAL part in Damion’s progress forward. It just wasn’t the right therapy at that moment in time for him. Doubling up on therapies is never a bad option either if you have the means to do so. If your still not convinced that you want to put in the money to try it, I wanted to let you know that they do have a 7-day free trial period as well. If you log on consistently, I am confident you will know within that time frame if Gemiini is worthwhile for your child or not. Check out more information on the Gemiini website here, with good internet speeds it is definitely worth a try!
(Photos credits from this blog to the Gemiini website)