Learning with Apraxia

I've been a little anxious ~ ok a lot anxious and for a long time ~ about starting school with Joshua.

When he was 2 years old and was referred to speech therapy, there were a lot of assumptions about his cognitive abilities. We were told things like..."If he can only speak in 1-2 word utterances then he can only understand 1-2 word phrases. Instead of saying, "Joshua, go upstairs and get your shoes..." we should say, "Get Shoes." This was a very sad time for me and very difficult for our family as a whole. We drove to San Diego twice a week for speech therapy that just didn't seem to be getting us anywhere. By 2 and a half the speech therapist considered using an alternative communication device for him as they thought he might never speak intelligibly.

Flash forward to his 3rd birthday...we found a speech therapy office much closer to home and decided to give it a try. Joshua was evaluated and the SLP mentioned that he might have "Apraxia of Speech." I balked assuming that this was some new "fad" diagnosis. She went on to explain that Joshua's "receptive language" was extremely high for his age. Huh? What? He understood and could identify vocabulary up to 2 years OVER his age. On the other hand, his "expressive language" (what he could SAY) was at about the level of a 9 month old. I had to ask her again..."so you are saying there is a chance he is smart?!?" Yes. He was and still is very intelligent. But based on the previous speech evaluations and our own interpretation of his speech - we were assuming he was, uh er, not so smart.

The more I began to research Apraxia ~ the more I realized it was exactly what Joshua was experiencing. By definition, Apraxia looks like this:

a child with the diagnosis of apraxia of speech has difficulty
programming and planning speech movements.

In other words, there is a disconnect between what the brain wants to say and what comes out of his mouth. Much like an adult that has had a stroke. Many times they don't even realize what they are saying is wrong. They just can't make the right sounds of words come of the mouth.

When Joshua turned 4, I accidentally discovered that he knew all of his letters. I had letter flash cards out to work with Nicole and I asked her to point to a certain letter. He showed her the right answer. He couldn't SAY the name of the letter...but he knew what it was. And then I discovered that not only did he know all 26 letters by name ~ but he could identify them by the sounds they each made. He had absorbed all of this knowledge 2nd hand...by me working with Nicole. But he still couldn't SAY the names of the letters. Mostly because he is physically unable to link a consonant to the "E" sound. Think about it...B C D E G P T V and Z all have the "E" sound in them. But they all come out sounds like "E."

Midway through last year I discovered he could segment the word to make it easier to understand. We used this method for working on letters. This looks like: buh-E (for B) and tuh-E (for T). It helped but it was still frustrating for all of us. And so, you can imagine, I was nervous about this year.

Joshua started "kindergarten" 2 weeks ago. I decided to ease the frustration of the alphabet...we would learn to sign (American Sign Language) our ABC's. After 2 weeks he can sign all 26 letters to the "tune" of the ABC's. Whenever I ask him to identify a letter, he says it the best he can AND he signs the letter. Somewhere along the way I also read that ditty's and repetition are life-savers for kids with Apraxia. So I looked up some Calendar songs on the internet and we started singing them 1 week ago.

Months of the Year (sung to the tune of 10 Little Indians)
January, February
March and April
May, June
July and August
December...these are the months of the year.

Day of the Week (sung to the tune of Oh' My Darlin')
There are 7 days, There are 7 days,
There are 7 days in a week.
Sunday, Monday
Tuesday, Wednesday
Thursday, Friday

Today, I asked the kids if anyone remember the name of the month. I was looking for the name of the current month (especially since it had just changed) but Joshua shot his hand up and started SINGING all 12 months of the year. Now....would a stranger on the street have any idea what he was saying? No. But he was was singing the tune and saying the words well enough that I KNEW he new the names of all 12 months. Amazing! I think I'll be making up some more learning songs for Joshua this year!

Most of all, I am praising God right now for the opportunity and ability to teach my son. In California, we were told a lot of things about his education...and how he would be handled in a classroom setting because of his speech...and none of them were acceptable to us. I am so thankful that God has equipped me for the work of teaching Joshua the way he learns best in an environment that will never limit his learning potential. All Glory to God for Joshy's smart little brain :)


What We Eat...30 Days Worth of Dinner

I finally did it...

I made a menu for the WHOLE month of September.

Really...I did.

I figure if I am going to travel to the city once-a-month for groceries I better be organized! And since school has started and my husband is now on midnights again...well, further proof of my need to be organized. Oh yeah - and one more...there is no where to eat out here. So I MUST cook or we don't eat.

So this isn't fancy or anything gourmet...but it is our Gluten-Free/ Dairy Free life and we make the most of it!

1 - Fried Chicken (w/ GF Bread crumbs)
2 - Tacos
3 - Leftovers
4 - Chicken w/ Zucchini & Tomatoes
5 - Ham & Bean Soup
6 - Leftovers
7 - Teriyaki Beef Sticks
8 - Bratwurst
9 - Spaghetti
10 - Grilled Lamb
11 - Leftovers
12- Spaghetti Casserole
13 - Sticky Chicken
14 - Fresh Fish
15 - Hamburgers
16 - Texas Chili
17 - Chicken Fingers
18 - Leftovers
19 - Tacos
20 - Stir Fry
21 - Marinated Chicken Breasts (grill)
22 - Leftovers
23 - Lamb Stew
24 - Oven Roasted Chicken (whole)
25 - Leftovers
26 - Roast
27 - Spaghetti
28 - Carnitas
29 - Fried Rice
30 - Homemade Pizza

Vegetables and Sides will vary largely on what's available and what we are in the mood for. We eat a LOT of rice and potatoes since those are really the only sides we can have. We will also be eating a LOT of zucchini and green beans from the garden this month.

I confess that I will not abide by this menu every night. It is just a relief to have an idea on paper...and know that I have the ingredients on hand. Our closest grocery store is 30 miles (we do have a small market in town but their selection is limited and they close at 5:30). Not always so helpful. As I was typing this I realized that I have a lot of leftover nights planned - but if we don't eat them they go to waste...so we might as well plan on eating them.

So hooray for organization! Hope you have a blessed month!


Happy Birthday, Joshua!

My little man turned 5 this month. Sometimes it is hard to believe how far we have come and how hard we have fought in just 5 short years. To be honest, there were many times I wasn't sure we would make it this far...

I was thinking the other day - as I was making a physical appointment for Joshua with a new doctor - about the three ring binder I have from when he was 2 and 3 years old...it is 1" thick and bursting at the seams. It has all of his medical records/ lab reports/ diagnostics/ x-rays/ and evaluations in it. We traveled all over Southern CA to see the best doctors we could find. There wasn't a week when we weren't going to see someone...hoping they would be the one who could "fix" him. Flash forward...Joshua had his 4 year old physical before we left So. CA last year. We have been in Montana for exactly a year now and he has not seen the doctor ONCE since we have been here...hence the appt. with the NEW doctor. Seriously...he has not been to the doctor once since we got here. Amazing. While I do dread starting over again with a new doctor...she is a D.O. with training in homeopathy. She is open to alternate vaccine schedules...and she is only 2 hours from our home! Yup, 2 hours...I hope it is worth it!

Anyway, Joshua wanted to go fishing for his birthday, so we loaded up the raft and went for a float. Lucky guy - he caught the first fish of the day!!! Like his mo-hawk? Yeah, he wears it well!

Happy Birthday, Little Man! We love you so much and we are so proud of you!

Welcome to Holland...A Poem

A wonderful poem describing life with a special needs child...

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Michelangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!” you say. “What do you mean, Holland?” I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to some horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy a new guidebook. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

The pain of that will never, ever, go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

Written by Emily Perl Kingsley


Got Snow?

We had a nice spring snow today...about 2 inches in an hour, actually! The children had worked hard picking up apples this morning and Daddy wanted to reward them with a treat. He grabbed 3 bowls of fresh snow and stuck them in the freezer till after dinner. While the kids weren't looking he whipped up some homemade snow cone syrup. After dinner, he brought the syrup in from the back porch (where it had been chilling) and told the kids that "magic elves" had brought it for them since they had worked so hard. He poured the syrup over the bowls of snow and what do you know ~ they loved it! After 2 servings of "snow bowls" each...Daddy insisted that they had to go outside and ask the elves if they could have more...cause there was a 2 serving limit. The 2 older children went outside and yelled..."Mr Elf, may I please have some more snow bowl?" Of course, Mr Elf replied, "Yes" is a high squeaky voice...so they each had one more! Here is how we made the syrup:

4 oz. jello powder
3/4 cup boiling water
1 small bowl or cup of snow

We boiled the water, added the jello powder, stirred until smooth then sat it outside to cool. Then pour it over the snow and enjoy immediately!

Easy enough to make some very special children...very happy!


The Cake Fiasco...

So...in my last post I was headed off to make a Betty Crocker cake for my daughter's birthday. As I was adding ingredients to the cake mix I sadly opened an egg that was all red inside - you know, what you picture when you think of Salmonella? Ewwww, yuck. I now understand why they tell you to crack your eggs into a separate bowl first. I had to throw everything away. And since we live 30 miles from the nearest grocery store that is open on a Sunday...I was outta luck. No cake mix and no eggs. Bummer.
So...I did what any desperate mom would do - I became resourceful. I pulled out my old recipe for Wacky cake. Wacky cake is a recipe from the depression era that has no milk, eggs, or butter in it. I have used this recipe in the past for GF cakes so I knew it could be done. All Purpose GF flour, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, oil, water, vinegar, and vanilla. Easy enough.
The cake turned out ok. The flavor was good and it looked good...just a little off on the texture. It was chewy. Not my favorite. But the birthday girl was happy enough and it looked pretty....right? Next time, I will make sure I have EXTRA Betty Crocker cake mix on hand :-)


Betty Crocker GF Cake Mixes

Absolutely delicious and worth every penny! These mixes have united my family on the gluten-free front. My husband and daughter - the non-gluten-free members of our family are completely satisfied with these products in place of their usual wheat-based treats. They are easily converted to dairy free by using dairy free butter. The texture and flavor are excellent AND they are much less expensive than some of the traditional gluten free mixes you will find. Best of all...you can find them on most regular grocery store shelves...even here in rural Northern Montana...bought some cake mix at the near-by IGA yesterday!
As a matter of fact...I am off to make a GFDF chocolate cake for my daughter's birthday party tonight! Yum, I can't wait to enjoy it!


GFDF Peanut Butter Cookies

Yum, yum, yum... the best peanut butter cookies you will ever eat! Even if you are not Gluten-Free!

2 Cups Peanut Butter (I use crunchy)
2 eggs
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup White Sugar

Mix all of the ingredients together. Roll into bite-sized balls and place on a cookie sheet. Press down with a fork making a crisscross pattern on top. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 8-9 minutes.

Seriously...that's it! They are moist and chewy and you can really appreciate the peanut butter flavor.