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 :)

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