Hi, and thank you for finding my blog! Welcome to my crazy, messy, lovely life. I am a part-time lawyer and full-time mommy of two wonderful babes, Layla and Eli. Both my kids have struggled with speech. Layla has a pronunciation delay, and has been in and out of speech therapy since she was 2.5 (she’s almost 5). When she began speech, I found a lot of support and got a lot of reassurance that she would “grow out of it,” “be fine,” and that it was “no big deal.” However, Eli has a speech disorder called Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either.
Simply put, apraxia is a motor disorder affecting the signals from the brain to the mouth. Someone with apraxia has problems saying sounds or words. This is not because the muscles are weak or paralyzed, but because the brain has problems planning to move the body parts (mouth, lips, tongue) needed to speak. Therefore, apraxia is a motor planning disorder. Eli knows what he wants to say, but his brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words. Apraxia goes by many names: developmental apraxia, verbal articulatory apraxia, apraxia and childhood apraxia of speech. Don’t get confused; they all mean the same thing.
After a stroke, someone may develop apraxia. Childhood Apraxia of Speech is different in that speech is not gained and then suddenly lost. The disorder is present from birth, but is not generally diagnosed until age 3 when a child has some words. With CAS, there is something in the child’s brain that is not allowing messages to get to the mouth muscles to produce speech correctly. In most cases, the cause is unknown.
Early on, I worried about Eli’s speech. As an infant, he did not coo or babble much, and only had a few consonant and vowel sounds by 17 months. I chalked his delays up to family history: Layla has a speech problem, was a late crawler and walker…it’s just who they are. At our pediatrician’s recommendation, we started speech therapy at 18 months. After several months, Eli’s speech therapist began to suspect apraxia. And now, a year later, we have seen marked improvement. Eli has a number of signs that help him communicate his wants and needs. He does not have frequent tantrums anymore because he can communicate with us. He has some words too. He can say “Uh Oh” and “Dada” perfectly. He has a lot of word approximations–“I” for hi/bye (with a wave!), “ess” for yes (with the sign for yes), “Huh” for help, and many more.
I spent a lot of time questioning my pregnancy and feeling like I failed my kids. Was it that occasional glass of wine during the third trimester? The stress of moving to a new state with a toddler when I was newly pregnant? Did I let him watch too much TV with his sister? Should I have continued to stay home rather than going back to work? More on my doubts and fears in another post, but those are just a few that crop up still every now and again.
In spite of this disorder, Eli is a sweet, charming, social, and handsome dude who loves to play outside, chase after his sister, splash in water, build with blocks and legos, and rough house with his daddy. I am in no way an expert in this field, but I invite you to join us on this journey.