Midlothian boy with rare disease that impacts motor skills finds his voice

Midlothian boy with rare disease that impacts motor skills finds his voice

GLEN ALLEN, VA (WWBT) - A 7-year-old Midlothian boy with Canavan disease, who was never able to communicate, can now speak thanks to his therapist at Richmond Hope Therapy, which is part of Bon Secours Richmond Health System, in Glen Allen.

Liam Fischer was diagnosed with Canavan disease when he was just a few months old. Canavan disease is a rare inherited disorder that damages the ability of the nerve cells in the brain to send and receive messages.

"It affects not the cognitive part of his brain that is intact, but it affects everything motor driven," said Amy Heller, Fischer's mother. "He can't support his body weight for long periods of time, he is absolutely reliant on a wheelchair and he is reliant on others for everything that has to do with daily living."

Heller knew her son understood more than he let on, but she never really knew how much until a few weeks ago. Liam's therapist, Shannon LaSpina, started using a laser pointer taped to the bill of a visor to see if Liam could communicate.

LaSpina helps support Liam's head but Liam does all the movement. Someone else sits with a letter board and Liam spells out words. LaSpina and Heller were astounded when she realized Fischer could read and spell.

"We all of sudden realized he could read," Heller said. "We never knew he could read."

Heller said no one had ever taught Liam to read, but they believe that through them reading to him and Liam being exposed to reading and speech at school, he was able to gain knowledge. They were astounded to realize how much Liam was actually taking in.

Liam now uses the letter board to speak to his family.

"The first time, he was asked by Shannon, 'Do you want to say anything to momma?'" Heller said. "It may have been the first time he used his letter board. He spelled out 'I love you.'"

Click here for more information on Richmond Hope Therapy.

Copyright 2017 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved