“No, don’t touch my Garny!” Troy P. hollers at the TV whenever the “bad guys” get too close to his favorite player, forward Garnet Hathaway.
Coming up with hockey commentary, saying goodnight to his carefully curated list of favorite players before bed, and listing the entire Washington Capitals lineup by jersey number would be impressive for any four-year-old–but it’s especially impressive for Troy, who has a speech delay.
When Troy went to see his pediatrician for his two-year check-up, his parents, Jenn and Nick, learned that Troy was below the developmental verbal benchmarks for his age. After another evaluation, he was diagnosed with a speech impairment, which affects his ability to verbally communicate. “There are still many sounds he can’t express and say,” Jenn wrote, “and sometimes it is difficult for him and you can tell he gets frustrated.”
Luckily, Troy has his loving parents; a support network of friends and family; dedicated and skilled speech pathologists and teachers; and a hockey community that shares Troy’s passion for the game and welcomes him with open arms.
“Hockey in our family is so much more than just a sport he plays and watches,” Jenn wrote. “We are fortunate enough that Troy found something he loves at such an early age that helps to keep him motivated to continually help him reach new goals in his communication.”
If Troy seems familiar, it’s for good reason–Troy Brouwer helped Jen and Nick announce their pregnancy; Troy’s first Halloween costume was Tom Wilson in the penalty box; he baked his “best friend” Garnet Hathaway a lobster cake for his birthday and got a signed stick in return.
He’s also a regular at the Capitals practice rink, where he watched his first practice at just six-weeks-old, and games at ten weeks. “It’s been really cool,” Jenn said, “because so many people at the arena have been able to see him grow up.”
Four, yup, FOUR years ago. Still one of my favorite pictures – @Latta17 holding Troy when he was 7 weeks old. Crazy to think I now have a 4 year old who is just as obsessed with hockey as we thought he would be ❤️ Miss ya, Latts!! pic.twitter.com/MHrJs01yuC
— Jenn (@OsRavensCaps) December 30, 2019
One of the concerns for children with speech delays is the social isolation it can lead to. It’s hard to make friends when you don’t feel comfortable with, or capable of, communicating. Being part of a fandom–part of the hockey family–connects each fan to all the other.
And Troy hasn’t just been around hockey: he loves it.
In addition to keeping Troy active on the ice (he’s been playing for two years now), his parents and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have found creative ways to connect Troy’s passion for the Capitals with the exercises he does to improve his speech.
We made a game for T to help with his speech and keep him motivated around something that he loves. Flash cards of @Capitals players numbers for him to say their names and then flash cards of their names so he can say numbers. The way he says Siegs name 😍🤩 pic.twitter.com/AHEWHG6HVq
— Jenn (@OsRavensCaps) January 16, 2020
One speech-language pathologist recommended a matching game to work on specific sounds, made up of words and pictures that Troy knows. Jenn “took pictures of Brouwer, Beagle and Ovi. Then I added in a Ball, Stick, Puck and Net (he had problems with P and T sounds as well at the end of words and in the middle of words).”
In addition to the matching game, they also use a hockey sticker book to “get different syllables and word sounds.” Despite loving the Capitals–and Garnet Hathaway–above all, Troy knows all the other teams and many of their players, and can recite them out loud. “We’d just sit in our living room, do stickers and watch hockey every night.” Sounds like a pretty good night to us!
Fun fact: there is one hockey team Troy doesn’t practice with–despite how important and challenging the “P” sound is–because, according to Jenn, “He would say ‘Ewww’ every time he passed the Penguins page in the sticker book.” (Even his well-intentioned but ill-informed extended family couldn’t change his mind!)
And my mom and aunt trying to tell him penguins are cute animals 🤣 pic.twitter.com/vHKKQ6DvNF
— Jenn (@OsRavensCaps) February 24, 2020
They have also started a “rapid-fire game” where Jenn will give Troy the number one of the Caps wears, and he’ll tell her which player wears it.
Rapid fire @Capitals roster game to help with his speech. Only had to help him with two players the rest he got on his own (he amazes me for just turning 4) ❤️ He sure does love his Caps (and love when I say 21! 🤣) #ALLCAPS 🥅🚨🏒 pic.twitter.com/Fjf5GuA5rT
— Jenn (@OsRavensCaps) January 27, 2020
This next one isn’t a game or lesson, but it is adorable. One of Troy’s bedtime routines is to say his “good nights” and “I love yous.” The list of “I love yous” includes Caps players, and has grown as Troy’s knowledge of the team and personal favorite players has expanded. He keeps previous players on the list (Beags!) and sometimes adds new players spontaneously. In this video, he added Holtby for the first time, much to Jenn’s surprise.
Troy’s daily bedtime routine.He’s done this for two yrs now & adds on now & then. He finally let me video-Tonight he added Holtby 🤣(to translate “I love you Brouw, I love you Beags, I love you Ovi, I love you Tom, I love you Dowd, I love you Garnet, I love you Holtby”) #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/a2ToMyJk2n
— Jenn (@OsRavensCaps) January 2, 2020
Troy is also a game recapper, with a strong chance of following in friend-of-the-blog Steve Dangle’s footsteps. The recaps started when Jenn and Nick would ask Troy who scored and what the final score was the morning after every game, and realized that he almost always knew the answers.
Jenn started recording Troy recounting the final score, who scored each Capitals goal, anything particularly good his favorite players have done, and sometimes, the low points. Listening to Troy talk sadly about a player who got hurt by “the bad guys” is both precious, and very, very relatable. Initially, she recorded them to see the kind of progress he’s made over time, and identify any areas they needed to focus on. Now she also shares them on her Instagram and Twitter feed for all of us to enjoy.
Your daily @Capitals game recap. I turned it off before he said “Ovi passed it to TJ Oshie” – like how does he remember this stuff at just turning 4 years old?! 🤣 #CapsYotes #allcaps pic.twitter.com/Qzq2sUrTeV
— Jenn (@OsRavensCaps) November 12, 2019
Long-time Troy fans may have noticed that the opposing team is always the same team, “the bad guys,” which Troy’s parents think he may have picked up from Joe B and Locker!
Troy’s issues with communication don’t have any impact on his motor skills and he’s becoming quite the hockey player. “He picked up a hockey stick at 12 months,” Jenn wrote, “and started hitting any possible toy he could find and turning it into a puck. We’ve seen such a huge improvement in him since he started two years ago.”
Watch out, draft class of 2034: there’s a superstar on the rise.
If you’ve seen even a few of Troy’s videos–whether he’s recapping last night’s match, reading names out loud from Samantha Pell’s articles in the Washington Post, or playing a game that was invented just for him–you can’t help but notice and admire the presence of his mom, Jenn. She’s teleprompter, interpreter, and cheerleader all in one.
Even if sometimes it’s hard to understand what he’s trying to say with his words, the fact that Troy is wearing a Brouwer jersey and custom-made Hathaway socks is more than enough to get a conversation started.
“Hockey keeps his interest, so we use to help with his words,” Jenn wrote. “He loves it and it helps him. There really isn’t anything else we could ask for.”
Headline image: @OsRavensCaps
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