By Leslie Lindsay
While you are preparing for your annual Thanksgiving gathering this week, I just want to send out a thoughtful reminder about our kiddos with childhood apraxia of speech.
Remember that any gathering can be overwhelming for any child, apraxia or not. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. While most of the time, these sorts of events are intended to be fun and festive, our kiddos with CAS can quickly become overwhelmed. They may shut-down or become overly clingy. They may “forget” words you know they know…it’s the pressure of having to perform that may cause them to clam up. Not only that, but the sounds and unfamiliar faces may just be too overstimulating.
What’s a parent to do?! Well, in advance chat with your child. Let them know what is coming down the pike (or the gullet!). Tell them that you’ll be going to grandma’s house (or wherever) and that there will be others there, too. You may want to pull out the photo albums (or your iPhone) and point out some of the folks you’re likely to encounter. “This is Aunt Lucy. She has red hair like you and is pretty silly. Do you remember when she dropped coins down the laundry shoot for you to go and collect?!” You can also have your child practice saying the names of relatives you don’t see often. This helps built their memory and their motor planning skills needed to communicate.
Make sure your child knows that it’s okay to be quiet. Tell them, “Mommy needs some time to warm-up before she gets really talkative. If you need to do the same, that’s okay, too.”
If your child’s relatives start asking your kiddo questions and you can tell your child has had enough…or just can’t answer; speak to the adults in a direct, but diplomatic manner, “You know, she just needs a little time to warm up,” or “We’re still working on using words, but hasn’t he come a long way?”
Later, you can fill the in-laws (and out-laws!) in on what you and your child have been working through since the last time you saw them. Sometimes, extended family can be clueless when it comes to things like this…they may ask probing questions, while it’s not typically not meant to cause harm, it can still be challenging. Have a few explanations up your sleeve to help ease the situation should it come up.
Most of all, it’s time to be thankful. Thankful that you have a wonderful child who is working so hard at being a verbal communicator…thankful that your child has a good school program &/or SLP who can help him with his CAS. And most of all, thankful for your child’s progress.