By Leslie Lindsay
This may very well be the chapter/excerpt you have been waiting for! Get ready to be inspired to help your child with some fun, and practical speech-inducing exercises at home. It may be the most fun “homework” session yet. This comes from Chapter 8 of “Speaking of Apraxia” (Woodbine House, March 2012).
This chapter is about learning how to help your child overcome apraxia of speech in a natural environment: your home and community.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Have a family game night. Traditional favorites will do the trick. The speech payoffs here: turn-taking, counting, requesting, being a good sport, and other communication opportunities.
- Visit your public library. Let your child find some books of interest and then read them to her. Speech payoff: child-directed learning, introduction to new vocabulary, 1:1 time with you in which you are modeling pronunciation and articulation. You might even hear some sounds or word approximations from your child!
- Experience and connect with nature. Speech payoff: identify and describe what you see, hear, and smell. Think holistically—this is more than just a walk in the park.
- Exercise by biking or sledding, walking, or swinging. Speech payoff: vocalizations and words are often heard with movement. Exercise also increases self-confidence, which these kiddos need more than anything. Children with CAS often crave movement.
- Do some art. Speech payoff: Besides the 1:1 time all kids need, it also unleashes creative potential and gives you something to talk about: “What color should we make the banana?” Practice saying “banana” or “yellow” while you’re at it.
- Listen to music. Speech payoff: Kids need physical movement, and what better way to get them to move than with some rockin’ tunes? Encourage singing; even if they can’t get the lyrics out, they can hum along. Plus, music has a positive effect on mood—even yours!
- Bake cookies or cupcakes. Speech payoff: identify ingredients as you toss them into the bowl, have your child repeat the words (flour, sugar, butter, etc.) if she is able, talk about shapes as you roll out sugar cookies. Share your cookies with friends and neighbors and let your child do some of the talking—if possible—when the two of you deliver the goodies. It can be as simple as saying, “cookie” or “bake”–even an approximation will do.
Encourage, Encourage, Encourage!
Once your child starts talking more, you’ll need to give her lots of praise and encouragement. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work with your child:
- Your child will do her best communicating when she’s not under pressure. Simple enough—how well do you communicate when you are in that important meeting or on a stage? For this reason, don’t insist that your child demonstrate her speech skills in front of an audience (even if it’s just grandma and grandpa). Instead, let your child’s speech come out more naturally, particularly with folks she may be unfamiliar with.
- Let (and encourage) your child to use whatever props she needs to communicate to her very best ability. That means letting her use gestures, sign, show you pictures, or act it out.
- Validate your child’s desire to communicate with you. When I couldn’t understand what our daughter was trying to tell us, I would say, “Kate, I know you are trying to tell us something really important, but we’re having a hard time understanding.” Depending on the situation, I might add, “Show us [what you are trying to explain, do, desire].” It worked 99 percent of the time.
- If you can understand some of what your child is trying to say, let her know. “I see . . . you are talking about George and the Man with the Yellow Hat, but I didn’t understand what you said after that. Tell me again.” She’s going to feel a lot better knowing that something got through and will do her best to revise what she just said so you can “get” the rest.
- Our SLP often said to give choices with small parts of the day. Preschoolers love this. It’s all about having some control in the choices they make. For example, you might say something like, “Do you want milk or juice?” An approximation of the word such as “Ju” is good enough, but a grunt is not. Finish the word yourself by saying, “Juice! OK, you want juice. I’ll get you some juice.” Then, if you’re as goofy as I am, you might break into a song about juice. ”Juicy, juicy juice. . . . yum, I love juice. Juice helps me grow strong and gives me important vitamins. I love juice, don’t you?!”
- Do not demand that your child use speech to make requests. (For example, “Tell me what you want to drink. You won’t get anything unless you can tell me what you want.” Yikes!) Your child may never feel ready to talk if she’s under that kind of pressure.
“Speaking of Apraxia” is the first-ever comprehensive guide exclusively devoted to parents of children with apraxia. It’s 400+ pages cover the diagnosis, how to find help, types of treatment, things to do at home, parent experience, professional insights, and more. You can purchase the book at www.amazon.com, www.woodbinehouse.com, at www.barnesandnoble.com and some Barnes & Noble stores. (if you don’t see it on the shelf, just ask!).