By Leslie Lindsay
Lately, my sassafrass of a daughter has been giving me this excuse when she can’t say or read something just so: “It’s p-cuz I have apraxia, mmoooommm!!” Whoa! Enter the Sassy-Speech-Sqaud (We’ll call it the Triple-S). I am hear to tell you that having apraxia, thought not necessarily a “good thing,” is not an excuse for trying–trying to read, trying to write, trying to speak intelligently (and intelligibly).
Sure, it may be trickier to speak as a younger child with CAS. No doubt about it. Having childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), is a challenging motor-speech disorder in which kids know what they want to say, yet they just can’t coordinate their thoughts with with the intricate movementes of the muscles needed to articulate clearly–or at all. When a child is young, explaining that she has apraxia to others is apporpropriate (given it’s the right situation and the right person, a teacher for example needs to know). But by the time a child can say, “It’s because I have apraxia [that I can’t say that word],” well…then it’s time to pull the apraxia plug, so to speak.
At 6 1/2 (going on 20), Kate is a chatterbox. Although half of what she says doesn’t always make sense (thanks in part to CAS and ADHD), but she can talk. She does just fine. Though, I will admit that I can often hear those little imperfections from her recent past as a child with CAS. It never really goes away. I notice it when she is tired, or frustrated, or learning something new–new concepts in school, a new vocabulalry word, or remembering her recently adopted dog’s name (Sally).
But for a child to give-up and not even attempt a new word, a bigger word, or a series of new words together and blame it on apraxia is totally not cool. Kids with apraxia need to remember that they can say a word, it just may take some extra time &/or practice to get it “just right.” No biggie. Remember to help your child along as she comes across new words in her life–be patient, practice that word with your child, say it incorrectly yourself and see if she can ‘catch’ it. Try singing the new vocab/spelling words together or writing sentences using all of the new words. Make flashcards and have her repeat them. Think back to those early days of apraxia: what helped you (and your child) get them down pat?
Remember to build your child’s confidence, too. Find other outlets for her that she excels in. For us, it’s Irish Step Dance. Kate also enjoys art. A lot of child-centered activities are confidence-boosting, peer-bonding, and don’t always require high verbal skills. Find what your child is passionate about and get her involved.
Most of all, don’t let the apraxia define her or slow her down. “P-cuz I have apraxia” shouldn’t become a household saying.
(By-the-way, she does say “because” like “p-cuz.” She pronounces “apraxia” is like “e-pax-e-a” So, you see…it still lingers).
Look for my book, Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech on-line and in bookstores in early March 2012. Published by Woodbine House.