When I was pregnant, I remember dreaming about my new baby. My husband and I wondered aloud if she would be a musician like him, an athlete like me, or have some individual talent all her own. We had absolutely no doubts about what strong communications skills she’d have, however. Her mother was an SLP after all.
During her first year, my daughter lagged in all developmental milestones. I went to at least five different conferences on early intervention, but I couldn’t figure out why my daughter wasn’t a chatterbox. She met her first word criteria at one saying “hi” to everyone she met.
My husband’s mother reported he was late to talk and didn’t really say much of anything until after two. I had heard of late talkers, but because I worked at the elementary level, I never treated preschool kids. I brushed aside my pediatrician’s suggestion to seek treatment because I was convinced my daughter must be like her Daddy and that I could help her.
I finally took her in for an evaluation when she was close to three and received a diagnosis of childhood apraxia of speech and global motor planning deficits. After starting therapy based on motor learning principles, she made progress immediately.
Upset that I missed this diagnosis in my own child, I went on to endlessly and obsessively research childhood apraxia of speech. I was disappointed to find maybe eight pages on the subject in my graduate school materials. I know CAS is rare, but SLPs need to know about it and need to have the tools to diagnose and treat it correctly.
That summer I attended the national conference for CAS. The next summer I applied and was accepted into the Apraxia Intensive Training Institute sponsored by CASANA, the largest nonprofit dedicated exclusively to CAS. I was trained under three leading experts: Dr. Ruth Stoeckel, David Hammer and Kathy Jakielski.
If I could get one message out to pediatric SLPs, it would be for them to research and become familiar with the principles of motor learning and change their treatments accordingly for a client with CAS or suspected CAS. I know many like me get so little training or even information on it in graduate school. I’ve met other SLPs who were told it was so rare they would probably never treat it or even that it didn’t exist.
ASHA recognized CAS as a distinctive disorder in 2007. Taking the time to learn more about how treatment for childhood apraxia of speech differs from other approaches for speech and language disorders is crucial for kids with this motor speech disorder. The importance of a correct diagnosis leads to a successful treatment plan. To briefly summarize, sessions should focus on movement sequences rather than sound sequences taking into account the child’s phonetic repertoire and encouraging frequent repetition.
Laura Smith MA, CCC-SLP is a speech/language pathologist in the Denver metro area specializing in childhood apraxia of speech. CASANA-recognized for advanced training and expertise in childhood apraxia of speech, she splits her time between the public schools and private practice. She speaks at conferences and consults for school districts or other professionals. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, Like her on Facebook, follow her on Pinterest, or visit her website at SLPMommyofApraxia.com.