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  • Writer's pictureKrista J Essler LAc

Case in Point: Floating-Harbor Syndrome and Dysphasia


Floating-Harbor Syndrome
High School Graduation

I first met Noah when he was 22 years old and he accompanied his parents to their acupuncture appointments. His mom shared a little bit about his condition, Floating-Harbor Syndrome. She spoke of the difficulty in getting the correct diagnosis which didn't happen until he was 9-1/2 years old. Previously, he had been mistakenly diagnosed with ADHD which delayed any type of supportive treatments.


This condition is found in 1 in 1000 people. The physical and cognitive challenges presenting in this genetic anomaly are

best addressed in the developmental years. At 21, Noah had aged out of pediatric care and thus further supportive treatments.

At our first encounter, Noah didn’t say much, but when he did, he would repeat the last phrase or sentence that was said to him. His mother shared that he regressed in using language after his grandmother passed away when he was two and a half. He had spent a lot of time with her and the loss affected him greatly. After participating in speech therapy, Noah began speaking again at 8 years old.


This type of language disorder is referred to as dysphasia and can affect both understanding and expressing language. Noah had been seeing Bernadette Elinsky, an LMT trained in cranio-sacral therapy, and was making good progress with his cognitive speech. But she temporarily stopped practicing to pursue her education in behavioral health and social work. I shared with Noah’s mom that my daughter has a similar speech issue stemming from Trisomy 21 and told her of the dietary changes to reduce neural inflammation that proved helpful. Noah’s mom then made an appointment for him to see if we could continue the progress that he found with Bernadette.


Two main areas of the brain that are involved in speech recognition and expression are Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. I renewed my search to find ways to access these areas of the brain using acupuncture. My previous attempts to find this information for my daughter did not yield usable results. This time, I came across Yamamoto’s New Scalp Acupuncture. I also sought out information pertaining to Floating-Harbor Syndrome and came across 10 pages to read and analyze from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) point of view, a skill acquired in my doctoral studies.


After an initial examination, I was able to incorporate this new information into Noah’s treatment plan. At first, he was coming for treatment every other week. He responded quickly and a month into treatment, his mother reported that his speech was clearer. Two months into treatment, I noticed that he was speaking to me with less delay. At six months of treatment, he was speaking spontaneously without questioning or prompts.


On the surface, this seems like a small accomplishment. But for Noah, it is a way to be an integral part of the community. He is able to better express his thoughts and remind those around him that he is a thinking and feeling being. His mother told me of two instances which brought her a great joy. Noah told his father that the tag was sticking out of his shirt. This conveys that he is observant, he sees something that is not acceptable, and that he also cares for his father to look his best. Another situation happened outside of the home in a group setting. The family was out to dinner with friends. One women in the group did not have her glasses and was holding the menu at arm’s length to read it. Noah turns to her and says something to the effect of, “if you had your glasses on, it wouldn’t be a problem.” So, again, this speaks of Noah’s analytic capabilities, his care for those around him, and his sassiness/sense of humor. It solidifies him as an integral member of the community.


A year into treatment, now every four weeks, he continues to progress. His latest benchmark is that he can complete up to three tasks after only being told once. This helps him with his volunteer activities for Meals on Wheels. Further, Noah’s mother reports that with his dietary changes, he has lost 10 pounds. Now he is also back to working with Bernadette again and continues to improve.


Read more on Dysphasia

Read about Floating-Harbor


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