By Leslie Lindsay
While it is an exciting time of the year, it’s also an important time to reflect on what your child with apraxia (CAS) is thinking and feeling as the festivities approach. Since your child may not be as verbal as you’d like, it’s often challenging to know how she or he is feeling (though I don’t want to discount the body language you are so intuned to).
I remember the scene well: it was Christmas morning 2008. My daughter with CAS was just three years old. I thought it would have been a fun, magical and memorable Christmas–three years old!! I can remember being three and the wonderment of a joyous holiday filled my mind.
I was determined to make it so for my own daughter. But she wasn’t thrilled. In fact, she timidly approached the Christmas tree where Santa had left a few unwrapped gifts…a large Fisher-Price dollhouse with accessories and a Sit ‘n Spin Zebra toy for her 1-year old sister. She took one look and her face fell. She ended up liking the Sit ‘n Spin Zebra better than the intended dollhouse. My expectations were a little crushed, I must admit. (I think hers were, too).
Did Santa screw up? Maybe. Did mommy screw up? I guess. As we opened more and more gifts, Kate’s blank face showed little emotion. “Wow–a cool set of Legos!” I would exclaim only to have her place them aside and fiddle with the wrapping paper. I would look to my husband for guidance, he only shrugged and pulled his mouth into a tight line as if to say, “she’s not into it.”
“But why?” I couldn’t help but wonder. To this day, I don’t know. Not really. But I can guess.
You see, I believe children with apraxia are struggling with a lot of things: 1) the fact that they can’t verbalize what they want for Christmas (or other gift-giving holidays), 2) they often have multiple issues going on at the same time (co-morbid conditions) such as ADHD, Aspergers, Autism, etc. (At this stage in the game, we were only aware of Kate’s CAS. Later, we learned that she also has ADHD. You’d think a child with ADHD would be going bonkers Christmas morning, but that is not always the case), 3) and finally children with apraxia of speech are often overwhelmed by sensory stimulation and might ‘shut-down’ in response.
What’s a parent to do?!
- If you plan to have Santa make a stop at your home, make sure you really know what your child wants. Please don’t assume. If you must, show your child pictures of toys from a catalog, a magzine, even Boardmaker to get clear ideas.
- Have your child draw a picture, or show you in some way what she wants for Christmas. She may be able to point to something in a movie or a friend’s home, for example.
- Don’t overwhelm your child with too many gifts. How many is too many? I have heard that one gift +/- 1 per year of age is a good guage. I don’t know if that’s really true…but it may work for you.
- If relatives are coming over, make sure your child knows ahead of time. Practice saying their names. Over and over. Again and again.
- Let your child know that they don’t have to talk or entertain (or perform) for those relatives. It’s okay to just play with other children, or their new toys. And it’s okay to give oneself a little time-out if it gets too intense. (That goes for us parents, too!)
Good luck and have fun!