Thrive by IU Health

October 17, 2023

Speech pathologist speaks up for young patient

IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

Speech pathologist speaks up for young patient

For Jason Ponder life in a hospital and growing up with doctors has always been the norm. Since he was a baby, Ponder has struggled with Alport syndrome, a genetic condition, insomnia and early onset Crohn’s disease. For the past seven years, he’s undergone 12 surgeries, the family routinely monitors his kidneys, and he receives monthly iron transfusions and takes medications.

“Jason knows he’s different,” says his mother, Maria Ponder. “To us, it’s just normal, he has had health issues.”

Recently, Ponder has been working through hearing and speech setbacks. Alport syndrome has given him chronic ear infections and issues with his hearing. Since he can’t hear as well, his speech has fallen behind from the standard level for his age.

“As his mom, it can be hard, because I know how much harder it makes things for him. It’s what he has become use to, and he does a good job at handling it.”

Jason Ponder

The family learned of his auditory memory issues when Ponder was just six years old. This is his second year in kindergarten and communication is becoming more demanding. He has visited a speech pathologist at IU Health Ball for the past three years. From his time here, Ponder and his family have grown close with Alesia Struewing, MA, CCC-SLP.

“Alesia is wonderful,” says his mother. “She does a great job communicating with me about what Jason is struggling with and keeping up with his school teachings. She is always willing to speak up for him and advocate for his needs.”

Every week Ponder comes in after school and they work on his speech with games, activities and practices. His mother will tell Struewing what sight words he has been struggling with that week, and they spend part of the time one-on-one learning it.

Struewing uses various techniques to help Ponder learn and improve. Over the summer, she did a practice called ‘turtle speech’ where she makes him slow down his sentences to talk at an understandable pace where he says each syllable. She recently recommended ADHD medication, but not for ADHD. She found that the medication can help with memory, which is a big struggle for him. “It was a new solution that we hadn't considered before," says his mother.

A few weeks ago, Ponder was able to read his first book. His mom shared the video with Struewing who celebrated with the family. “I can tell she has the same amount of excitement and loves to see him progress just as much as we do,” she says.

Struewing even helps the family find programs to help cover the cost of all the health and care appointments. “She has helped me in so many other ways beyond what I expected.” Says his mother. “She advocates for my son and provides us with ways, ideas and techniques for his overall well-being.”

Ponder just celebrated his seventh birthday this month. “We are so proud of him,” says his mom. “He has worked so hard and progressed so much.”

Ponder with his brother

Related Services