As a baby my son was a talker; he babbled, cooed, and screeched loudly bringing smiles to our faces. We would laugh joyously as he yelled, “ba ba ba” at the top of his lungs. I said he will be an early talker and everyone agreed. But soon one and a half passed us by and he still favoured his ‘ba ba’ sound.
Our doctor was not concerned:
“give it time…speech will come”
How we spotted verbal apraxia
Two years came and went and still no other words. Our boy was bright and we knew he understood everything we said. He communicated with us by showing us things and using his hands, pointing his fingers or grabbing our hands to take us to what he wanted. He rarely got frustrated and constantly amazed us by how creative he was at communicating without using speech.
Every now and then a word escaped from his mouth; dog, dad, mom. Then it would be gone, never spoken clearly again.
By the time he was two and half there was no denying there was something amiss with his speech. His receptive language skills were miles ahead of his expressive ones. We had him evaluated and verbal apraxia was the diagnosis. The most notable characteristic of this delay is difficulty putting sounds and syllables together. It is also very common to say a sound or word perfectly and then be unable to do it again (Source: The National Website of Deafness and other Communication Disorders).
What did we do once we had our verbal apraxia diagnosis
The teacher in me leapt into action, making sure I had everything documented and he received the amount of intervention he deserved from the best speech pathologist we could find.
The mother in me felt beaten down, exhausted, afraid to know what this diagnosis meant and how it would affect his future. I did the research… and it horrified me.
The large variations between children diagnosed with verbal apraxia made it very difficult to pinpoint what our child had and whether or not his prognosis was good. On top of that, while I knew other children with speech delays, no one had the same diagnosis.
Verbal apraxia was rare and only recently had its diagnosis among children begun to rise, According to Science Daily, one to ten children out of 1000 were being diagnosed with verbal apraxia.
Three years later I am beginning to meet more parents whose children are diagnosed with verbal apraxia and I am happy to offer them support and empathy; something I did not get.
People could be insensitive to the diagnosis
I found other parents were insensitive; suggesting his disability was more severe than it actually was. They did not hear his intelligence therefore they assumed he needed more support than necessary. But I knew, his father knew, and his grandmother (a special education teacher), knew as well; this was a boy who only needed intense services in speech. Everything else was there and that would be our saving grace. His memory and intelligence has helped him go from speaking six words to having full conversations; at times still difficult to understand but getting better every day. The more he is around other children who speak clearly the better he does. Putting him in a more restrictive setting would have held him back and I am grateful I trusted my instincts and resisted listening to others.
Don’t be disheartened
Research on verbal apraxia is generalized but treatment and diagnosis needs to be individualized; what may be relevant for one child may not apply to another.
Be your childs biggest advocate; know your childs strengths and needs and make sure who ever is working with him recognizes them as well.
Do not search the Internet tirelessly for information. You will learn best from observing your child and talking to trusted therapists and doctors who know your child. Early intervention is huge!
If you suspect your child has a speech delay have him evaluated and start treatment. Most importantly do not get discouraged. A diagnosis of verbal apraxia does not mean your child will never speak, it just means he will have to work hard to overcome his difficulties, but with your love, support, and encouragement he will get there.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.
Have you had experience with verbal apraxia? What happened with you and your child? Did you get the support you needed? Do you have any tips? Do share below.