My son is in his third year of intensive speech therapy and recently started Kindergarten. Although he has several approximations , he has yet to say a complete sentence with zero errors. As a parent, I teeter on feelings of deep sadness, frustation and hoplessness when we practice. Sure, over time I have learned to deeply appreciate tiny successes. I was told from the beginning that progress with apraxia is very slow , but it has taken awhile to accept the concept of “slow”. He can now imitate letter sounds in isolation and is beginning to remember some ending sounds, but still struggles to coarticulate, which is the motor planning issue seen in apraxia.
Coarticulation , in speech, is the way the brain organizes sequences of vowels and consonants. One syallable is produced in about one fifteenth or one twentieth of second but the lips, toungue and jaw take a little bit longer to move. Therefore, in order for speech to be produced smoothly, the brain must coordinate these articulator movements in a very elaborate way. This motor planning deficit is why my son can say “book, book , book” or “walk, walk, walk” with cues but then says “ee me a ba” ( read me a book) outside of practicing single words. Reading about coarticulation and watching the daily, minute by minute struggle my son goes through wears on my soul. The complexites of speech are miraculous when I stop to analyze, but are worrisome when I contemplate what the future holds.
I think to myself , “if I were him I think I would have given up by now”. But he doesn’t. He continues to go to therapy four days a week without complaint. In those sessions they push him to produces dozens of targets. It’s exhausting. It can feel defeating. But he plows on. I am not sure what he is thinking. But he displays an admirable dose of motivation for a five year old boy. Speech sessions are only the beginning. In addition, he walks into a room of over twenty kids and two teachers every day for an education, despite being understood only 50 percent of the time. He settles for his teacher’s translations for his pictures or stories after he has exhausted all efforts to communicate his ideas. His teacher and his classmates accomodate him the best they can but it is still difficult to have the constant barrier of language. Despite the struggle, he proceeds into each day with a smile. He cannot wait for the next school day. He adamantly insists on doing homework each night , even if it includes writing. Due to apraxia he also struggles with letter formation and pencil grip, but that does not stop him .
His former preschool teacher and one of his speech therapists have said:
“I admire his persistance.”
His current teacher and former preschool teacher have said:
“he is so intelligent. We know the information is in there dying to come out” …..And the information does come out little by little.
Both speech therapists and teachers have said:
“I admire his energy and smile. “
While I become hyperfocused on the brain, motor planning and therapy process, my son remains motivated, determined, cheerful, and persistant. He uses his strengths to navigate the best he can through life. Persistance, motivation, and charisma—these are key ingredients for anyone to succeed in life. He is only five years old, but my son lives a life many adults to not—- he does not care what what others think and he refuses to give up despite adversity. He fights his fight. He lives his life. And he does it with a beaming smile. That is what keeps me going behind the scenes,—orchestrating, advocating and making sure he conintues to have what he needs to overcome apraxia. In the process I can say I have learned more about self-love and growth mindset from him than he has learned from me. I think the professionals on our team would make the same statement. That’s the beauty of children, especially children with a battle in life.