By Leslie Lindsay
Parents who have a child with CAS so often ask, “What can I do to help my child with apraxia?” And it’s a darn good question. For we so often don’t really understand what apraxia is, let alone how we can help. It kind of comes across as double-edged sword in many ways.
Wish I had a magic bullet for you or a series of games and exercises that will instantly get your little one chatting up a storm–and intelligibly. Alas, I do not. But I have some bits of wisdom that may help you along your journey:
- Know how your child learns best. Is she a “see-try it-do it” kind of kid? Does he prefer rough and tumble play to sit and learn styles? Does she like to see what she needs to do before doing it (by seeing a model on TV or a parent act out something). Does he respond well to books? As a parent, you’ll find that you need a little trial and error in this department. Your child may grasp some skills faster/easier if she sees it done first, but then other skills won’t transfer as well in the same learning style. Being patient and being inventive is the key here.
- Get creative! Kids are bored to tears with flashcards and memorization (not that they don’t have a place, they do…) but instead of using those flashcards in the traditional sense, why not show them to your child first, then say, “I am going to hide the flashcards in the playroom. I am going to set a timer and have you look for them. Find them as fast as you can and then bring them back to me. When you bring them to me, you say the word or message that is on the card. Okay! Let’s do it!” You can take flashcards and match them up with actual objects you have in your home. For example, my girls had some farm-themed flashcards and Fisher-Price farm animals…we would pull both products out at the same time, matching animals to cards and practice saying their names &/or sounds. Sometimes, we even acted like the particular animal! (as you see, the possiblities are endless. Use your creativity).
- Use movement and motion. Sitting still and doing nothing rarely makes a person smarter or better able to do something (that’s why TV doesn’t really educate). Through in some whole-body movements while practicing some target words/phrases will get you where you need to be–even something as simple as “Head-Shoulders-Knees-Toes” can work wonders with a child with CAS. But the key her is to say those words as you touch the appropriate body parts. Even an approximation will do. (Hint: you may have to move slower than typical with this exercise so your child can focus on speaking).
- Work on turn-taking. I know it sounds a little dorky, but communication requires turn-taking. I speak–you listen–you respond–I speak–you speak. Try rolling a ball back and forth between you and your child (toddlers love this), and while you do so, say “My turn!” “Your turn!” Try doing this for as many turns as you can do and then try to have your child say something along those same lines. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You can do similar turn-taking play with other toys like tea party or jumping jacks, or matchbox cars.
My book, “Speaking of Apraxia: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech” (Woodbine House, 2012) has an entire chapter devoted to similar ideas in the form of “What you need…what you do…speech pay-off.” The book is now available for pre-order at an introductory rate: