As I sit here and think about the fifth annual Apraxia Awareness Day, I think about my life as a speech-language pathologist and a mother to a child with a severe speech and language disorder. My daughter has resolving apraxia, but still deals with a significant expressive and receptive language processing disorder at 7 years old.
I want to talk to you not as an SLP, but as a mom to a child who has this severe speech and language disorder and tell you why Apraxia Awareness Day—coming up on May 14—is so important to parents in the apraxia community and how we as SLPs can get involved.
- Acceptance and community: As SLPs, we can use Apraxia Awareness Day to share details about this disorder with colleagues, friends and families in our care. As a mother, this day presents the chance to celebrate our children’s victories and show the world we are proud of them. The more conversations we start about apraxia, the greater the opportunities to exchange ideas and promote research and discovery.
- Education or re-education for professionals: For most parents, awareness means creating a larger community of professionals who acknowledge and understand childhood apraxia of speech (CAS)—how to recognize and diagnose it. I can’t begin to even explain how disheartening it is for a parent to educate a “professional” in their life about CAS. I’ve experienced more than one parent share how they knew more than their original SLP and had to seek help from an apraxia expert. One adult with apraxia admitted they had trouble finding an SLP who understood the continuous struggle of living with CAS.
- Education for the public: This doesn’t need much of an explanation. Any parent of a child with apraxia, or an adult with apraxia will tell you, “No one knows what it is.” This includes family. Relatives and friends don’t know about apraxia, which means they also don’t understand it. Many parents describe their difficulty handling family members who say they’re overreacting and their child will grow out of it. If we share more education and understanding, more people will understand how hard these kids work.
- Education means appropriate diagnosis, which means appropriate treatment: I share openly and honestly about my professional and personal journey with CAS on my website. In my first post “Know Your CAS,” I talk about missing signs of apraxia in my own daughter. That was difficult to admit. Now when I give workshops, I pause when I get to the slide on, “10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Apraxia of Speech” and ask SLPs in the audience how many of them were taught these red flags in graduate school. Usually only a couple raise their hand.
- Support for families and people living with the disorder: This includes monetary support in the form of insurance. Apraxia can cost a lot in treatment expenses. The current recommendation is for a child to receive three to five individual sessions a week. Insurance usually doesn’t cover this frequency, often leaving families financially strapped. In many cases, a child with apraxia doesn’t just have motor planning issues specific to the speech system, but also to other gross and fine motor systems; this necessitates occupational and/or physical therapy, which usually also don’t get covered. In addition, spreading awareness lets others know they aren’t alone and many other children experience similar issues!
I know personally and professionally how much it means to a parent when their SLP takes an active and supportive role in the apraxia community. Even just celebrating Apraxia Awareness Day can mean a lot to them. If you want ways to get involved or learn more about childhood apraxia of speech, check out ASHA’s resources on the disorder, or peruse suggestions on how to celebrate Apraxia Awareness Day.
So please SLPs, will you join us? We need you!
Laura Smith, MA, CCC-SLP, is a school-based and private clinician in the Denver metro area specializing in childhood apraxia of speech. She often speaks at conferences, gives workshops, and consults for school districts or other professionals. Like her on Facebook, follow her on Pinterest, or visit her website at SLPMommyofApraxia.com. firstname.lastname@example.org