New Horizons Guardsman brings speech therapy to Peruvian boy
By 1st Lt. Mary Pekas, Task Force New Horizons Public Affairs
/ Published November 13, 2008
AYACUCHO, Peru -- For many guardsmen, deploying abroad and fulfilling their military service means briefly leaving their day-to-day job back at home. For 2nd Lt. Edna Falu Escalera, she has found a need for not only her military logistics skills, but also her civilian expertise here in Ayacucho, Peru.
Lieutenant Falu Escalera, deployed to Task Force New Horizons from the 156th Air Wing in Puerto Rico, is a logistics officer for the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. However, her civilian career is in children's speech therapy. After a visit to I.E. Inicial CRL. Miguel Peñarrieta Elementary School, the school at the task force's base camp, she learned that a four-year-old boy named David was in need of her help.
"I went to visit the school, and I started talking to the teacher and told her I was a speech therapist, and she said David needed help with his speech," she said.
Lieutenant Falu Escalera began visiting the school daily to assist David, his classmates, and the school teacher.
"I decided I would go every day between 30 and 45 minutes to give (David) speech therapy, and I gave (the teacher) a daily plan so she could work with him and the rest of the kids," said Lieutenant Falu Escalera.
During her lessons, Lieutenant Falu Escalera would help the children with oral exercises and by practicing articulation. With the help of special software, songs and music, she was able to engage David and his classmates in what some children may find to be a tedious practice.
"Speech therapy is about making the child conscious of what they're doing wrong and how to correct it," said Lieutenant Falu Escalera. "It's not like having a cough and taking medicine. This is something you have to repeat and realize."
For David, his challenge was to correct "fronting" and "backing," which means that the sounds that should be made in the back of the throat he makes in the front of his mouth instead, and vice versa.
"I think he is benefitting from the lessons, and I gave the teacher everything I think she needs to at least get him started," said Lieutenant Falu Escalera. "If he gets therapy twice a week for 30 minutes, he'll probably improve within a year."
While music and special software can aid in the process, a child's attitude can make all the difference in improving his or her speech. Therefore, Lieutenant Falu Escalera anticipates good progress for David.
"He is so open when he does (the therapy). He is a kid who will get where he needs to be," said the lieutenant.
Lieutenant Falu Escalera is deployed with Task Force New Horizons, which has completed nine medical missions and the construction of three clinics, two schools, and a well. But during their time here in Peru, servicemembers have made extra efforts to reach out and help the local community.
Task force members have visited the base school almost daily to play with the children and to bring them fruit and snacks for lunch. Volunteers also treated the children to a field trip to see a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook, and sponsored them for a trip to the local museum and the zoo.
"I have a daughter who is 8 years old, so I love kids," said Staff Sgt. Eddie Tacub, the lodging manager for Task Force New Horizons. "I love it more when I can help kids, whether it's by feeding them, playing games, or just holding them or giving them hugs."
For Lieutenant Falu Escalera, the chance to help David and his class with their speech is also a piece of home.
"Back home, I am supposed to be doing this right now with my kids," she said. "I may not be doing this at home, but I'm still getting to do what I love."
New Horizons - Peru 2008 is a partnered opportunity for the U.S. and Peru to complete construction and medical projects for the benefit of underprivileged Peruvians. New Horizons projects are an annual manifestation of U.S. Southern Command's commitment to enhancing cooperation with partner nations in Latin America and the Caribbean.
To learn more about New Horizons -Peru 2008, visit http://www.12af.acc.af.mil/library/newhorizons.asp.