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understanding apraxia in our life | 1-year later

It has now been exactly 1-year since the diagnosis “Childhood Apraxia of Speech” (CAS) came into our lives and shook it up forever. Just when I thought we had encountered and conquered most of the steep learning curves of life, a new one gets thrown at us. And it’s a doozy.

I don’t think most of the people in our lives, or a majority of the new people we encounter on a day-to-day basis, quite understand the magnitude of challenges that a family living with a child who has CAS has to face. I don’t think people get what is like for that child, either. And most of us wouldn’t if it wasn’t for books like Anything But Silent, that is partially written from the perspective of a girl (now grown) who has apraxia. I’d like to first share a little bit of background info about apraxia to help further an understanding of it, as well as give you a little bit of insight into what it’s like for our own family.

“What exactly is apraxia/dyspraxia?”

I wrote a length post about this for Apraxia Awareness Day and you can read it HERE. I’ll do a quick recap for this post, though. I had NO idea what these terms meant until Max’s diagnosis. The term “apraxia of speech” is used to describe a speech disorder (that is neurologically based) that interferes with a child’s ability to initiate and sequence motor movements for speech. It is an oral-motor speech disorder characterized by the lack of ability to consistently position the articulators for speech. Unintelligible speech is the result. Basically, the brain doesn’t make the right connections to send the proper signals to the mouth necessary to produce speech. The child has limited control of speech muscles and there is no guarantee that children with apraxia will ever speak, or speak intelligibly. The apraxia also affects Max’s fine and gross motor skills, which is described by Max’s occupational therapist as dyspraxia. He also has a sensory processing disorder on top of it all.

Apraxia/Dyspraxia is not a developmental delay that will ever resolve. It is an issue of health and normal physiological function. A child will not outgrow this disorder. Developmental delay is when a child follows a typical path of development, but at a slower than normal rate. Children with apraxia/dyspraxia, like Max, generally have a wide gap between their receptive and expressive language abilities, with receptive abilities normal and expressive abilities seriously deficient.

“Why didn’t he get help sooner? Didn’t you see any signs?”

Of course we noticed Max’s delayed milestones and limited speech. But please know that we love him to pieces and were doing absolutely everything in our power to help him on our own. Also, we had absolutely no previous children of our own to compare his development to, so in retrospect it was really hard for us to tell what was typical development and what wasn’t. We were SO confident in his determination and abilities and were sure he’d catch up to his peers. And then the gap only widened and we finally knew that the help he needed was outside of our own abilities and what we could offer him. And, apraxia is something that has a much harder time being diagnosed until after 3 or 4 years of age. Had he started speech therapy sooner, he still might not have made much/any progress because an SLP might have been helping him with a standard speech delay instead of using the unique approaches of apraxia specialists. I believe we had him evaluated and started treatment at just the moment we needed to.

Also, we do not need anymore questions or suggestions along the lines of: “Have you sought out public assistance?” “What about Early Intervention?” “Is he going to public school and are you lining up an IEP meeting?” “Why don’t you just see a therapist that’s in-network?” “What about an iPad to help him speak?” Etc, etc, etc. Most of the people we first tell about Max have a laundry list of ideas and suggestions for us, as if we haven’t already done hundreds of hours of research and haven’t chosen the best current therapists and treatment plans and education setting for him. Sharing your own experiences and stories are fine, but I promise we’ve got the rest covered.

“How is Max handling it?”

It’s hard. But he really doesn’t know any other way of life. This has been with him forever. And considering he has never had an effective way of communicating with us until he began therapy, I’d say he has handled it like a champ!

Only through incredible amounts of repetition and practice will Max then be able to come closer to making the proper muscle and mouth/facial movements and shapes that allow him to produce sounds/words. He has to practice EVERY word and sound over and over again until he can say it relatively clearly, and then keep practicing it until it becomes more like second-nature and he doesn’t really have to think about it (think about it as similar to learning how to ride a bike, and after a while you just balance and pedal without really having to give it much thought).

On days when Max is particularly tired or maybe sick (or even just distracted), he regresses a little and becomes slightly uncoordinated and clumsy, and lessens his speech with most sounds coming out a bit slurred together. Or he mixes up words or drops off consonants. This is something that will happen his whole life. He has increased his expressive language from less than a dozen words to now several hundred words and approximations (words that sound unclear/imperfect to others) since he started his speech therapy. We.are.STOKED. It’s so exciting for him to finally start being able to tell us simple things and needs he has like being hungry or thirsty. However, the average person who is not around Max 24/7 will probably only be able to understand maybe less than 50 of the words he can say.

And therapy days are completely and utterly exhausting for him (as well as us). He works so hard and is just completely bushed by the time we get home.

“How are YOU handling it?”

Well, nobody ever really asks that. We were initially very heartbroken, but are constantly learning ways to move forward. And we’re completely determined to do everything in our power to help him. It’s devastating to watch him struggle so much. Every.damn.day is a challenge. Every minute. He’s our baby. Our firstborn. The one who made us parents. Everyone wants the best for their kids and to not see them face adversities. So to want some normalcy for your children and then have something like this thrown in the mix feels impossibly hard at times. And the financial struggle surrounding it all is enormous. It’s stressful. It’s mind-boggling. Sometimes we feel completely defeated. But we’re also incredibly determined to get him the absolute best therapy, and help him flourish in every way possible.

“How does apraxia/dyspraxia affect each of you in your family?”

We practice with Max constantly outside of his sessions, both with speech and occupational therapy. Jose and I both sit in on every therapy session so we know how his therapists are working with him, see what he’s excelling at versus what he needs to work on, and how exactly they help him progress.

And we’ve had to drag along Oliver (now 14-months old) to all of this for nearly his entire short existence. He will never know a life that doesn’t include therapy several times a week for his big brother (and of course we’re keep an extra watchful eye on Oliver’s development now that we know what to look for!). And that in itself is just exhausting for all of us as well. Oliver’s babyhood has been so different than Max’s because we can never just solely focus on Oliver. Or allow him to nap when/where/how long he wants to. Or take him to playdates or mommy and me yoga like I did with Max. And at this point we’re still taking him to the doctor every few months for checkups and vaccinations. So WE.ARE.BUSY! I’d love to be less busy. But right now it’s not really in the cards. And of course all of that is on top of me running a photography business, doing freelance writing, and Jose working a full-time job plus freelancing, just to help bring in some extra money to put toward therapy bills.

And since we are so incredibly busy and strapped for cash (since every penny of any money we make goes to either bills, student loan debt, or therapy), we really have to forfeit everything else. We don’t really buy things. We don’t go on dates. We don’t take vacations. It’s just not in the cards for us right now. We have to give up everything that doesn’t involve bettering our family, increasing our well-being, and securing our future. We’ve gotten really good at finding free things to do, and are getting really cozy in our home, enjoying every bit of it inside and out. Our home is our safe space. Our bubble. It is our temple and we are at ease here. All four of us love our routine and our own cozy spots. Right now, this is the space that works for us.

Also, Max needs therapists who specialize in apraxia, which means we have to drive 45 minutes to an hour each way each day for therapy. Right now he’s receiving speech therapy 3 times per week for 30 minutes each day, and recently we reduced his occupational therapy to just once per week for 30 minutes because it is all just incredibly difficult to afford, and right now his needs for speech therapy are greater.

“But what about insurance?”

Ohhh insurance. Yeah. They’re fun. As I mentioned near the beginning of this post, apraxia/dyspraxia is a neurological impairment. However, insurance companies refuse to believe this is something that he was born with, that is a brain dysfunction, that impairs his ability to function normally. They say they’d provide coverage if he was injured in an accident and that’s what caused the dysfunction. A lot of times your insurance coverage depends on what the employer has selected, too. It also differs in every state. So it’s a completely different situation for everyone. The insurance folks are headstrong to believe that it’s just a developmental delay that will remedy itself without intervention. They would cover rehabilitative therapy, but not habilitative.

I fought BCBS in NC for an entire year and lost every single claim and appeal. Not a single evaluation or therapy session was covered. We’re paying nearly $800/month in premiums and receiving zero therapy coverage for him. So starting December 1st, we’ve decided to drop the insurance coverage and seek out SSI and Medicaid (something a lot of other apraxia parents have had good luck with!). Fingers crossed.

“What does all of this mean for Max’s future?”

Max has an incredibly difficult journey to continue. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed thinking about the difficulties he has and the ones that lie ahead. I see the other 5-year-olds on playgrounds and how they interact and play and talk in sentences. And then they wonder why Max isn’t talking to them. It’s not that he doesn’t want to. He just can’t. Ugh, and then there are the looks from a few rude parents out there. The “what’s wrong with your kid?” looks. Explaining Max’s special needs and disability to other parents has been a challenge as well. A challenge to find the right words and the easiest way to help them understand something they’ve never heard about before (and that’s if they decide to even venture into a conversation with you to begin with, or just straight up ignore your family because you’re different).

And then I think ahead to school. And social interactions. And bullying. Did you see sweet Danny on Ellen last year? He also has CAS (but his was from a known cause, unlike Max’s). The video is heartwarming, to see a young man stand up for him, but it’s also completely heartbreaking to think that Max will likely encounter the same type of bullying.

Have you seen this list of famous dyspraxics (no apraxia issues as far as I can tell, though)? Even in interviews with Daniel Radcliffe, he talks about his struggles with dyspraxia and how he found other things to focus his efforts on to succeed. Max will do the same. Just because he may not be able to verbally communicate well or easily, doesn’t mean he can’t succeed in areas of life and careers that don’t heavily rely on verbal communication if speaking doesn’t end up being one of his strong suits.

“How can I help?”

Some friends and family have sent us money now and then to help pay for therapy and that was incredibly kind and thoughtful! Every penny helps! We are fortunate for Max to attend such a wonderful private therapy clinic that gives us a discount on their services, so the money goes even further than it would otherwise. They have become like a second family to us. Everyone there is so sweet! Thank you ALL who have contributed to Max’s therapy!!!

[12.10.14 UPDATE: I have created an email address to use for collecting therapy donations for Max at: avoiceformax(at)gmail.com via PayPal, because so many people have expressed interest in helping our sweet kiddo!]

Another way to contribute financially would be to send clients our way! Either photography clients for me, or art/illustration/graphic design/web design clients for Jose! That income literally puts food on our table and gets Max all of the therapy he needs!

But something that goes even further than financial support, is emotional support. Just check in. See how Max and Oliver are doing. Try to put yourself in our shoes. Ask how we are doing. Nobody ever really does. Because in all reality, even though it’s appreciated, money is always just a band-aid fix. We apply for grants (Max was awarded two grants this year that we were able to immediately use on therapy!), sell things, bring in freelance clients, etc. We find ways to try to get the therapy paid for. But sometimes it’s just an incredibly lonely road that nobody gets, unless you also have a child with special needs. And just don’t flaunt your easy life or good fortune for the sake of bragging. Nobody likes that anyway, but especially those that are immensely struggling in some way.

Finally, just spend some time with Max! Get to know him. Be sensitive to his disabilities but treat him like a regular, fun, happy kid! I think that’s where a lot of people go wrong. They don’t take his limits and abilities into consideration so they end up pushing him further than he is comfortable/capable, but they also don’t treat him like any other 5-year old who just wants to have a fun time. Educate yourself, ask us any questions you may have (please, don’t be shy! I’d rather educate you than have you remain fearful of hurting feelings), and then just get to know Max. I promise you will just adore him!

Only rainbows after rain. The sun will always come again!

Those are some of my favorite lyrics by Andy Grammer. Because it’s true! Most days are ridiculously difficult, but every once in a while you get sunshiny glimmers of hope. And it is those moments that I grasp onto that encourage me to never give up. Ever. And Max’s therapists are total angels! He has come SO FAR in just 1-year. He amazes us more everyday with new skills and words he has learned. You can tell he’s gaining more confidence, too. And he is starting to be able to share his knowledge and interests and aspirations with us! It’s incredible and SO wonderful!!! Every day he is acting more and more like a typical kid, and it is such a blessing to witness. I have NO idea what his future is going to be like, but I do know this: Max is the most kick ass human being I have ever known, he is a sensitive and wise soul, he has a passion for life and nature that is sure to make the world a better place, and he is sweet and kind and loving and will be your best friend if you let him.

And, for anyone else on the same journey of us, especially if you’re just beginning, please know that there IS hope! The tunnel isn’t as dark and scary as you initially may think. And I promise that light at the end of the tunnel is NOT a train. ;-)

XOXO

Max

Friday’s Thoughts: Right Speech (samma vaca)

I want to start posting some thoughts on Friday’s to help you wrap up the week and send you into your weekend. These posts will be more of personal essays rather than tips, tricks, and lists. I want to give you some things to ponder as you sit back and enjoy a couple of days off from work (if you work a typical 9-5 schedule that is!).

I’ve thought a lot this week about patience, and a friend of mind once told me in the most beautiful way that patience to her is “being in the present.” She said:

“Satya was nearly a year old when I realized, for me, patience means being in the present. If I am in the present moment, I don’t need to try to “have” patience. There is nothing left to have, your mind is in the present and nowhere else. What happened a moment ago or what will happen a moment later is irrelevant.”

Perfect. Let’s carry that thought with us through this journey! She also reminded me that the potential of Buddhahood is present in every being. Which is what inspired today’s focus!

Right Speech | Lea Ciceraro | www.leaciceraro.com | www.lovemesimplyphotography.com

Right Speech; as per Buddha’s Eightfold Path. I am nowhere near an expert on Buddhism, so for those of you who are Buddhist, I’d love for you to join in this conversation and elaborate on what it is you might also be seeking with Right Speech, as you will likely help provide everyone with an even deeper understanding. I’ve never felt tied down to any one religion in particular, so I’d love to explore and try to understand what each one has to offer.

My understanding of Right Speech is to be conscious of your thoughts and words and thus avoid criticism, condemning, gossiping, and harsh language (among others). According to AccessToInsight.Org, Right Speech is “…abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, and from idle chatter.” All of the info on that link is very interesting and worth reading, and there’s so much of it that I won’t try to reproduce all of it here.

I much too often find myself being critical of others or just not being positive with my language, sometimes just in thoughts and sometimes in a whisper to the person I’m with. But I never say anything aloud to the person the criticism is about, so I’m not being mean to them, right? Wrong. Kind of like your mom probably always told you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Mom’s onto something! ;-) And my own mama always said, “ALWAYS be nice to EVERYONE, no matter what.”

There’s so much bullying going on these days in so many forms, whether it’s road rage induced, or in a tiny little grade school classroom, or on the Internet. Maybe if more people adopted a Buddhist approach and took each part of it seriously, there would be less bullying… less feelings hurt… more love. Anyway, that’s another topic in itself.

I’m reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and there’s a great page (p. 121) in there where she describes a yoga teacher once asking the question during a practice, “Why do we practice yoga?” She goes on to explain how yoga in Sanskrit can be translated as “union” and “…the task at hand in yoga is to find union– between mind and body…” There’s obviously a LOT more to yoga than that, but today what I want to take from that is finding the union between my body, my thoughts, my actions, and Right Speech.

After all, not only am I a member of society, a teacher, and a photography business owner, but most importantly I’m also a wife and a parent, and “with great power comes great responsibility.” ;-) What kind of example do I want to be setting, especially for Maximilian and Oliver? This needs to not only start with my words and actions, but on a more difficult level: my thoughts.

Where do you feel you stand with “Right Speech?” Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

XOXO

5 Ways to Give Yourself the Gift of an Amazing Week

Do you ever long for the weekend because it’s a time to relax, unwind, and spend time with your loved ones? And sometimes it’s beautiful and perfect, but other times it’s one crappy run of luck or turn of fate (or constant encounters with rude people) after another? Without going into more detail for the sake of of moving forward, that was our weekend. Far from perfect. The kind that makes you dread the work week beginning again when you’d rather hit the open road and get out of town with your family to reset you mind for a while. But when that’s not an option and your routine must continue business-as-usual, there are a few things you can do for yourself to give yourself the gift of an amazing week. Why? Because you deserve it. And why call it a gift? Because you have the power to make the decisions that shape your day, your week… your life.

5 Ways to Give Yourself the Gift of an Amazing Week by Lea Ciceraro | www.leaciceraro.com | www.lovemesimply.com

Remove Toxicity

This could mean a number of things. Toxic relationships. Toxic technology. Toxic substances. You get the point. If there are things in your life that are working against your health and well-being, get rid of it (or at least reduce it). Challenge yourself to unfollow at least a dozen pages that you currently follow on Facebook, Instagram, Feedly, etc. that you feel bring nothing but stress or negativity into your day (there are a number of news sites I choose to not follow anymore because I couldn’t stand the constant influx of horrible things being reported on!). Unfriend people with whom you don’t have a solid, happy relationship with and don’t really talk to anymore anyway. As far as food and drink consumption go, have some hot tea instead of alcohol in the evening when you unwind from the day, and eat a few more vegetables instead of sweets this week. You’ll be surprised how much happier and more positive you feel when you remove toxicity.

Use Less Tech and Get Outside

For most of us, the weather is starting to turn into something beautiful, cooler, and more enjoyable than the hot, sweaty days of summer (at least for me, here in the South, I’m welcoming Fall with open arms and wish it would arrive a littttle faster!!). Turn off your computer, put your smartphone in a drawer, and go enjoy the great outdoors! Pack a picnic. Go for a walk. Shoot a manual, film camera instead of digital or using your iPhone (you may even learn something in the process of not using something totally automated!). My husband just told me that he has a friend at work who has a “no smartphone rule” when he gets together with friends. Which is brilliant! Handheld technology usage is getting out of hand and making people so impersonal (and sometimes just plain rude!). So do yourself a favor and use a little less tech this week, and just soak in the world around you. You might be surprised what you see/learn/encounter when you get off your devices and get outside.

Do Something Nice for Someone Else

I’m a big believer in altruistic actions and paying it forward. Go be the reason someone has a great day. Whether it’s handing a few bucks to that homeless vet you always drive by at the gas station corner, donating books or clothes that you no longer use, or paying for someone else’s coffee at a coffee shop. Just find something that you can do for someone else. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see how you can help them. And don’t expect praise in return. In fact, don’t even post about it to Twitter of Facebook (you “Like” seekers know who you are!). ;-) Do it because you wanted to and expect nothing in return (hence, altruism). Not because you want to show someone else how awesome you are. Go be a great person this week! And then make a habit out of it. You will start feeling like you live in a much happier world and that can’t help but lift your spirits.

Listen to Happy Music

As my husband put it, “Put on some ska and start dancing!” Of course, your choice doesn’t have to be ska music. But, it’s soooo happy! You can’t help but be in a good mood when you listen to Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, or Buck-0-Nine (a few of my personal faves!). I’m a big believer that music can have a profound effect on your mood and attitude. So, for this week, put aside the angry or sad stuff, and crank up the happy tunes! My kids even love listening and dancing to it. It puts us all in a great mood!

Slow Down

Are you one of those people with a full schedule, or one or more kids to keep up with, or multiples projects to tackle at work (or anything else that keeps you busy and on your toes for the better part of almost every day)? Take some time to consciously slow down this week. Breathe. Do some yoga. Lay down in the grass and look for cloud animals. Stop and smell some flowers. Even just walk or drive slower than usual. :-) And speaking of slow down and ska music, check out THIS song by Reel Big Fish!

Lea Ciceraro | www.leaciceraro.com | www.lovemesimply.com

I hope you found this post helpful and will go out and give yourself the give of an amazing week (and life!). Let me know in the comments below if you have anything you’d add to this list, and please do let me know if you try any of the above ideas this week and how it worked out for you!

XOXO

Thrifty Tuesday Part III: Recurring Bills

This week’s post about creative cost cutting solutions is centered around those recurring bills that are a regular part of your monthly budget. With some creative thinking and a couple of phone calls, you can do wonders to reduce your living costs!

15 Tips to Save You Money on Recurring Bills | Lea Ciceraro | www.leaciceraro.com | www.lovemesimply.com

Recurring Bills (tips #26-40)

26. Refinance your home for a low if it works for your life and your current home situation.

27. Check out cheaper car and/or home/renters’ insurance. And sometimes grouping those can save you even more money. It really does pay to shop around.

28. Same goes for your cell phone plan! If you must have a smart phone, check out what your actual data and minutes usage are. You might be surprised how little you’re using in comparison to what you’re paying for each month. Downgrade your plan, if you can! And ask for discounts! A lot of cell phone companies offer discounts to certain employers and professions (i.e., nurses, teachers, etc.).

29. Compare rates with other gas and electric companies (and TV/internet/phone, if you like– although we dropped our home phone line and cable altogether). Changing to another company sometimes gives you a huge “switching incentive” that could save you from paying that bill for a few months, and just get you a lower rate overall!

30. Also, some energy companies will give you a discount if your home is green certified! Check into it!

31. And, unplug appliances and turn off lights that aren’t in use. Being extra conscious about that really adds up!

32. Set your thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter. For every degree above 72°F in the summer, you’ll save up to three percent per month in energy costs.

33. In the winter, be mindful of that gas fireplace usage if you have one! We got a shocking bill last January, not realizing how expensive it was to flip that switch and enjoy the fireplace! Ouch.

34. Same goes for water usage. Be smart about not letting your shower run for too long before you hop in (even better, let a bucket collect the water while it’s warming up, and use that to water your garden!), turn off the sink faucet while you are brushing your teeth, turn down the faucet while doing dishes, etc.

35. And, don’t run your dishwasher until it’s completely full. Same thing with laundry (and use cool water).

36. Use a rain barrel to collect water for your lawn, plants, and garden.

37. Paying extra on your student loans/car payment/mortgage will save you TONS of interest down the line, and it will get paid off sooner!

38. On that note, never buy or finance a brand new car! They immediately lose value the moment you drive it off the lot. Instead, opt for a pre-owned or used vehicle and save yourself thousands. Even one that is just a year or two old but has been traded back in to the dealer for whatever reason can save you thousands. Plus, any issues or recalls have already been worked out which leads to a few less things for you to worry about right off the bat.

39. Check our favorite financial planning guru Dave Ramsey for more awesome help and ideas! Using his budget forms have been a life saver to help us live within our means and reduce our monthly spending!

40. Also using tools like Mint.com is helpful to get an overall picture of your debt (if you have any) and to track your spending. It’s very eye opening. If you’ve been too scared to take a look at your current financial situation, now is as good a time as any!

XOXO

What is Apraxia and Why Should You Care?

Imagine you are a small child, playing outside, and you get stung by a bee or fall down and hurt yourself. You’re scared and crying and you run to your parents. But you can’t tell them what happened or how to help you or where it hurts. So you just sob and embrace your mom and dad until your just get used to the pain or it goes away.

Or picture your worst fear coming true and someone kidnaps your child or they get lost in a crowd, separated from you. They’re gone. You panic. A LOT. Because you know they can’t say their own name or tell someone where they live or who their parents are.

Or put yourself in the shoes of a parent who has been spending the first few years of their child’s life undergoing what feels like one big “game” of charades. Only it’s you trying to understand what your child needs or wants or when they’re hungry or tired. But they can’t tell you, so you have to become the expert in anticipating their reactions to certain situations… an expert in their nonverbal communication… an expert in “translating” their pointing and grunting to others who don’t understand them. You can’t/don’t want to send them to a regular school or daycare (yet) because the teachers and students there don’t know how to “deal” with them. You can’t leave them with a babysitter because they don’t know your child at all and can’t talk to them to learn more about them.

Or imagine being a new parent and watching your child’s milestones fall farther and farther behind their peers. Late crawling, sitting, walking. No babbling or cooing. Other parents at the park look at you and say, “Oh, he’s not walking yet??” Or, “So how many words does he have now?” Or they look at your child and say “how old are you” or “what’s your name” and all your kiddo can do is stare back at them, not out of rudeness, but just lack of ability to speak, even though they want to. Sooo desperately want to.

Or what about traditions like taking your child to see Santa to tell him what he wants for Christmas? Or saying “trick-or-treat” on Halloween? Much more complicated, and sometimes not even an option, for kids with apraxia.

This is what it’s like to live with Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Our son Maximilian was diagnosed with severe apraxia 2-weeks after his fourth birthday, along with dyspraxia and a sensory processing disorder.

Max-101

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately trying to find the right words to make a concise, relevant, informative, and helpful post about apraxia (I’ll do another post later on dyspraxia as it relates to motor planning issues with the rest of the body, not just the mouth and speech). But it’s taken me longer than expected, quite frankly because it’s a pretty complex disorder to understand, even for someone who has a child with apraxia. So here is my best attempt at an easy-to-understand explanation. Most of my information came from the MayoClinic website.

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is:

  • a rare speech disorder
  • when a child has trouble making accurate mouth movements to speak
  • neurological
  • an issue of health and normal physiological function
  • a medical condition consistent with the definition of disease and illness
  • easy to misdiagnose, as it shares some characteristics with other speech disorders

A person’s brain has to learn how to make plans that tell your speech muscles how to move your lips/jaw/tongue in ways that results in accurate sounds and words. But the brain of a child with CAS has difficulty planning these movements, thus resulting in little to no speech, or incorrect/inconsistent sounding speech.

While some symptoms might appear earlier than others, CAS typically cannot be formally diagnosed until 3 or 4 years of age. Here are some symptoms. Some of these appear in children with CAS, some do not.

  • difficulty breastfeeding
  • little to no babbling or cooing as an infant
  • delayed onset of words
  • limited number of spoken words
  • frequently leaving out sounds
  • learning to say a new word and then “losing” it later
  • vowel and consonant distortions
  • separation of syllables in or between words
  • voicing errors (i.e., “pie” might sound like “bye”)
  • sometimes language problems such as difficulty comprehending speech, reduced vocabulary, or difficulty with word order

Alright, I’ll stop there with all of the technical stuff! It’s a very complicated, in-depth disease that is impossible to sum up in one post. But, in short, for a child with apraxia, their brain struggles to send the proper signals to their mouth to produce intelligible speech.

Here is what Childhood Apraxia of Speech ISN’T:

  • It is NOT a developmental delay that a child will simply “grow out of.”
  • It does not mean my child is dumb.
  • It does not mean you can talk down to my child like they don’t understand you.
  • It does not mean you can bully my child because he talks differently than you.
  • It does not mean you have to deny insurance coverage for speech therapy just because you don’t properly understand the severity of the disorder or why intense therapy is necessary.
  • It does not mean you can ignore it and pretend this lifelong disorder and battle doesn’t exist.
  • It does not mean my child’s hopes and dreams and ambitions are any less important than your neurotypical child’s.

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Now, I know there is an awareness day for pretty much EVERYTHING out there and every single person and family is fighting a hard battle with something that they need support for… I for one had never even heard of apraxia until last year. So why should you care about CAS and participate in Apraxia Awareness Day?

  • Because CAS is rare, and therefore incredibly understudied, partially due to a lack of funding because it is so unheard of
  • Because more awareness will help doctors suspect CAS sooner, thus leading to earlier intervention, rather than telling parents and caregivers to wait it out as a possible developmental delay
  • The cause of apraxia is mostly unknown (sometimes it’s genetic or due to trauma in the womb or during birth), and you usually can’t see any evidence of it on an MRI
  • By better understanding apraxia, you can teach other kids about some other, new, beautiful differences that may exist between them and help stop bullying
  • Children with apraxia sometimes never speak, or never speak intelligibly
  • Because the families of children affected by CAS need a wide range of support, especially emotional
  • If CAS is not properly evaluated and diagnosed by a Speech Language Pathologist who specializes in apraxia, adequate and appropriate therapy may not be provided and little or no progress may be made
  • More awareness might also encourage Speech Language Pathologists to study more about, or specialize in, apraxia
  • So more grants may be created and offered to families in need of financial assistance for speech therapy
  • While the act of learning to speak comes fairly effortlessly to most children, those with apraxia endure an incredibly lengthy struggle
  • Without appropriate intervention, children with CAS are at risk for secondary impacts in literacy and other school-related skills
  • Because apraxia is so unrecognized and misunderstood, most insurance companies do not cover speech therapy services
  • A lot of families (us included) turn to private speech therapy for help, despite the costs, because many schools do not understand the importance of intensive, frequent, one-on-one speech therapy for apraxic kids
  • It is important to provide adequate speech therapy and other services so that the impact of the disorder can be minimized
  • One or more children you know may be affected by CAS, so it’s important to understand the signs and early symptoms
  • Because our son was diagnosed 6-months ago with apraxia and he could use everyone in his corner that he can get
  • And, because every child deserves a voice.

By donating and spreading awareness, you are helping to provide (from apraxia-kids.org):

  • Critical information so that families of newly diagnosed children know how to help their children and feel less alone in the process
  • Education so that professionals have the best tools available and children receive the best possible treatment
  • Day-to-day support for parents of apraxic children and the professionals helping them
  • Research to uncover the best and quickest ways to help children with apraxia develop speech

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So, please, please, please, take some time this Wednesday, May 14th, the 2nd Annual Apraxia Awareness Day, to learn a little bit about Childhood Apraxia of Speech, and do a little something to help educate others and show support for children with CAS, like our son Max.

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#wearblueformax #apraxiaawarenessday2014

 

*None of this is meant to be used as medical advice, as I am not a medical professional. Everything I have written is merely based on our own personal experiences.

[12.10.14 UPDATE: I have created an email address to use for collecting therapy donations for Max at: avoiceformax(at)gmail.com via PayPal, because so many people have expressed interest in helping our sweet kiddo!]