A not so little thing called Apraxia

As a teacher, I was familiar with Autism, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, and various other disabilities, but I had never heard of Apraxia. Now, as the mother of a son with Apraxia, I am learning! Here’s an overview:

After noticing many missed developmental milestones, I took my son to his pediatrician, who concurred with my worries. And so began the assessment process with different doctors and therapists.  He showed traits of Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy and Autism, but we were told we had to wait and watch, wait and watch.

We met with an Early Intervention team that were devoted to helping my son communicate. Slowly, Drew and I began to “talk” to each other. It felt like we lived in our own world, and nobody else could come in. We went to therapy together, played together, and slept together because he woke up so often.

There are memories that still make me tear up, like the time he was trying to tell me something when we were driving home from the park. It was early in the therapy years.

“Muh! Muh!” he called out happily.

“Mommy?” I asked.

“No! Mluh!”

“Are you hungry?”

“No! Muhl!” The tears and anger began to come.

“I don’t know what you’re saying, honey. Did you have fun?” I was beginning to panic.

“No!” He was hitting his mouth. He wouldn’t stop. He just kept hitting his mouth and crying.

“Honey, take a deep breath. Can you find a way to show me?” I asked, trying to sound cheerful.

He pointed to the vehicle in front of me.

“Truck?  You were trying to show me the truck?”

He smiled and fell asleep. I cried the whole way home and then some more. 

He began seeing a very intense speech therapist named Vicki. Vicki exhausted me. She saw my son every day, called often, and she was relentless. I was instructed to make books and puppets, flash cards and worksheets. Just when I’d get the hang of something, she’d switch things up and set a new course.

Vicki introduced me to the word Apraxia, which was something I never heard of before. I began to visit www.apraxia-kids.org daily and found a support system, as well as research to review and conferences to attend. These conferences made me appreciate her even more, because Vicki was already doing everything suggested.

Vicki taught Drew to speak using ‘touch cues’. Slowly, ever so slowly, Drew began to talk. He began to form complete words. It was not an overnight success story by any means, but he did begin to talk. When he entered Kindergarten, he could say simple sentences. And by middle of first, he got in trouble for talking in music class! Now, there are times I wish he would be quiet while I try to get some writing finished or if I’m talking on the phone.

He still confuses pronouns, omits words, and has to think some sentences through before he can speak them. Sometimes he might have to start a sentence over a few times before he gets his thought across. Now that he is older, he gets impatient and frustrated with himself when the sentences won’t come. But he’ll stick with it, and we keep working. We continue to find strategies that help him, in thanks to the amazing teachers and therapists we’ve had the honor of working with.

Do you have a child with Apraxia? Want to compare notes or share a success story? Contact me! julia@juliagarstecki.com

Julia Garstecki

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