Apraxia Monday: What is CAS and How Can I Help?

Last week, at “Apraxia 101” we started the group off with…snacks!  And chatting…and smiles.  Several of us were in attendance, including the owner of the speech clinic. 

When I asked the participants, “How many of you walked out of your child’s evaluation/diagnosis appointment with newfound expertise in apraxia?”  I  got blank looks.  “What?!  You mean to tell me the speech language pathologist didn’t wave a magic speech wand over your head and…ding…made you an expert?” 

I got a few nervous giggles and eager faces. 

Well, let me tell you, it’s not easy to become an expert on such an obtuse diagnosis.  There simply isn’t enough information out there.  Sure, there are a few websites, one in particular (www.apraxia-KIDS.org) which is the largest organization in the world for CAS, but still…sometimes we just need to start small.   Sometimes we just need to start local. 

Next, I had each participant write their occupation/college major/post work experience on a notecard.  On mine I wrote “NURSE.”  Others had occupations in education, dental management, psychology, accounting/CPAs, even a speech-language pathologist was in attendance.  I asked each member what they could bring to the “apraxia table” based on their current or former occupation.  More blank stares.  Together, we drew some parallels.  Here’s what we found:

  • Folks with a background in education were more likely to have creative (sneaky) ideas for working on certain words and sneaking in that all-too-important speech practice at home.  They were often more patient and eager to learn new things. 
  • Those who had a background in numbers (like those mommy accountants) were great at keeping charts on practice sessions, adding stickers to the chart for a job well done, and reviewing standardized test scores.
  • Moms and dads who had backgrounds in psychology were also pretty good at the number things as well, but were also big proponents of the “whatever I can do to help him be successful” mode of teaching/helping.  They were all about making speech therapy a positive experience. 
  • Management folks were good at delegating and working with their children to “sharpen the saw,” just as they may do if they had an employee who wasn’t performing at their best.  They were good at encouragement and follow-through. 

Hummm….and you thought you weren’t going to be any good with this apraxia thing?  Turns out you have some hidden abilities that just may help you tap into the mystery of it all. 

We then moved into the big question….what is apraxia? Here’s the quick and dirty answer: CAS is a motor-neurological speech disorder (not a delay) in which kids have difficulty organizing and executing the sounds they want to make in the form of verbal communication.  Yep.  It’s a mouthful, alright.  Here’s some more information. 

A muscular disorder A neurologically-based motor speech disorder, it’s not a delay
A cognitive disorder A neurobehavioral (genetic/metabolic) disorder
A developmental delay A disruption in spatio-temporal parameters of speech movement (difficulty moving articulators through space with correct timing for accurate sequencing of sounds)

It’s not a black and white answer; and if this is still a bit confusing, don’t lose heart.  ASHA (The American Speech & Hearing Association) offers the following definition of CAS: “A neurological childhood (pediatric) speech sound disorder in which precision and consistency of movements underlying speech are impaired in the absence of neuromuscular deficits. 

I know you have questions.  Lots of ’em.  Check out the ASHA website at www.asha.org for more information.  And, keep following along on the blog for more information.   Happy Monday!

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