Speech & Reading Center fosters learning with multi-sensory approach

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2023

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LULING — Now open at 50 Wade St. Ste. 4 in Luling, the Speech & Reading Center lays a strong foundation for lifelong learning through a unique, multi-sensory approach to literacy and language development.

The community was invited to a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on May 19. Owners Jennifer Burns and Sherri Troxler have a combined 45 years of experience working with children in the River Parishes and have seen a need for localized speech and reading services.

Burns graduated from LSU with a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and went on to obtain a master’s in speech language pathology from the LSU Health Science Center. She’s worked as a speech language pathologist for 18 years and has spent the past 14 working strictly with the pediatric population through Louisiana EarlySteps, an early intervention program for infants and toddlers with developmental delays.

“EarlySteps covers children from birth to 3 years old, and after the children age out at 3, a lot of them still need some kind of continued therapy services. Parents are having a difficult time finding somewhere to bring their children, especially in our area,” Burns said. “Even if they have to go out to the Metairie area, they are still finding lots of waiting lists everywhere.”

Troxler began her 30-career teaching career as a kindergarten, first grade, and inclusion instructor in St. Charles Parish Public Schools. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education – early childhood from the University of New Orleans and has completed the Orton-Gillingham Approach to Reading Course. Since opening a Multisensory Reading Center in Metairie seven years ago, Troxler has taught countless children to read by breaking the process into smaller skills with a multi-sensory approach of visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic experiences.

It wasn’t long before her neighbors in Luling were asking if she could tutor their children in reading. What started out with a handful of neighborhood children grew into something bigger as more referrals came in. New Life Community Church graciously allowed Troxler to use the Sunday School room for tutoring sessions, but it became apparent that she needed her own space.

A chance encounter during a potluck at New Life Community Church facilitated a connection between the two women.

“I was talking to Jennifer’s mom at a potluck dinner at church and was telling her how I was looking for a place for tutoring, and she told me her daughter was also looking for a place for her speech therapy services. In that moment, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. Maybe we could do this together,” Troxler said. “Speech and reading really go hand in hand.”

Burns and Troxler soon realized they had the same goals.

“We think sensory is very important in reading, speech, and language development,” Burns said. “I feel that what sets our center apart is that we have a huge sensory area. Children with speech and language delays often have some sensory challenges as well. We try to use all modes to help these children engage and be able to communicate.”

A custom-built sensory board engages the five senses. Burns compared it to a fidget board that invites children to push buttons, flicker lights, brush their hands against different textures, and twist and turn toys.

“Kids might need that extra sensory input so they can feel calm. If they don’t have it, that’s when you might see children rolling on the floor or climbing. We need to meet their sensory needs so they can feel regulated and be able to be attentive and participate,” Burns said.

A trampoline and movement activities are also incorporated into the Speech and Reading Center to help children get the wiggles out.

On the opposite end, children may be overstimulated and need space to decompress. The Speech and Reading Center meets these needs with a cozy playhouse space where kids can enjoy quiet moments reading or self-regulating.

Troxler works with children from pre-K 4 through fifth/sixth grade who struggle with reading process or have been diagnosed with dyslexia. Meanwhile, Burns works with children ages 1-15 with language development and articulation. Parents are encouraged to start monitoring speech milestones from infancy. A lack of babbling by nine months old is something to keep an eye on, and toddlers should have close to 20 words by the time they are 18 months old. Children who receive therapy through EarlySteps can also receive outpatient services at the Speech and Reading Center.

Parents should continue to monitor their child’s speech and reading progress after they reach school age.

“Early intervention is definitely the key to success. If a parent has any concerns that their child may be in need of a service, they should reach out to us and see what we can do to help,” Troxler said.

To schedule a screening, contact Troxler at 504-258-1013 (reading) or Burns at 504-437-1683 (speech). For more information, follow Speech and Reading Center on Facebook.