By Leslie Lindsay
It was nearly five years ago this month that we learned Kate had severe childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). I was in complete and utter denial. I didn’t know what apraxia was, let alone what it meant for my daughter–and the countless other children who also have the diagnosis.
But I do now.
It was 2007. We were visiting with family in St. Louis for the holiday. At the annual turkey dinner, I was chatting with one of my cousin-in-laws when she asked how the girls were doing. She nodded, jutting her chin in their direction. A mass of redheaded (2nd) cousins wrestled and played, appropriately so in the so-called “conversation pit” of the family’s ranch home. Only Kate wasn’t conversing. She was, in fact smiling and laughing and grunting. She had no words. Or, at least very few of them.
I pinched my lips into a tight line. Her question rang through my head, “How are the girls doing?” It was a benign-enough question, but I felt the backs of my eyes prick with the familiar burn of tears. “No, don’t cry,” I scolded myself.
I mustered up a lame-o, “Fine.”
My cousin-in-laws eyes softened, her shoulders narrowed, “How’s her speech?”
It was as if she knew. My stomach flipped. “We were just diagnosed with apraxia.”
She nodded knowingly. “All four of my boys have been in speech at some point. We just celebrated the last one’s dismissal. Ten years of speech therapy. I even got a certificate for all of the time I carted them there.”
Wait. What was that? All four of her children had been in speech therapy at some point in their childhood? How could that be?!
I didn’t know what to make of that. I asked her point-blank, “Did any of them have apraxia?”
She shook her head. I felt anxious. “But there’s a lot that can be done. We loved our speech pathologist. Did great things with the boys.”
Meanwhile, the giggles and grunts from the conversation pit ensued. Their waves of red bobbed up and down. Kate approached me and signed “more” for Doritos. She was having the time of her life and it really didn’t matter if she could talk with her 2nd cousins, or not. They got it. They didn’t need words. Instead they were happy playing tag and tap dancing on the wood floor.
Fast-forward five years. We have had amazing speech pathologists (SLPs), occupational therapists (OTs), caring preschool and kindergarten teachers, and now a little girl who can communicate quite well.
And a book. For you, for me, for our children.
You see, as a mother-turned-author, I knew in my heart that my children were a gift. They may not be completely perfect but that doesn’t matter. They gave me ability to love, to understand, to question, to learn.
And that, it what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.