What is Apraxia? An Update on My Son’s Speech
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I don’t remember if I ever updated about my son’s speech problems and I wanted to explain and update a little about what is going on. About eight months after we found out Adam had autism, we found out that a lot of his speech issues also stemmed from Apraxia of Speech – a neurological disorder.
This was good news and bad news. Good news because it explained why he was still having such a hard time talking, and bad news because it meant that it would be even more of a struggle for him to talk and that his speech therapy would take a little bit of a different route. Since discovering his Apraxia, we have worked hard at learning to understand it and with that have helped Adam come such a long way with his speech.
For those that may not know what Apraxia is and for those who may wonder if your child has Apraxia, here is a great information sheet that we were given that helped us understand it. Below, I will explain it all in more detail.
What is Apraxia?
As you can see the definition is pretty easy to understand, but the types of Apraxia are very different. Adam has all three. He goes to OT to help with his Limb Apraxia or Dyspraxia as some of his other therapists called it. This showed itself when he was very young as he would run into things a lot, he was not able to climb out of his crib or even onto our couch for a very long time, and he struggles with low muscle tone in his legs and especially his hands. When he first started with his new OT earlier this year, she said his hand grip was that of a 6 month old. That’s how low his muscle tone was and that is a form of Apraxia.
Oral Apraxia is what we discovered Adam had since birth – although we didn’t discover it until he was 12 months old. But this was seen by his inability to breastfeed, struggles with sucking on a bottle, unable to suck on a pacifier, unable to chew, and unable to blow air out (blow bubbles, candles etc). When we first got him looked at by a therapist at age one they said he had no muscle tone in his mouth and cheeks at all. This has gotten better through several years of therapy, but he still has trouble chewing and blowing.
Last, but not least is the Verbal Apraxia. I like the explanation on the photo above and the older Adam gets the more we are able to see the things that are described in that definition. Apraxia is seen in little ways and not always things we can catch, but more of what a trained therapist has seen and points out to me.
Here are a few examples:
- Adam can say the word “cracker,” I have heard him say it, BUT he can’t always say the word “cracker” as it may come out as something else. I may say, “Adam say: ‘Cracker please.'” And one time he will say,”Cack-uh pease” and the next time he may say, “Na-na pease.” In this case his brain was able to say it the first time, but unable to say it the next time. Which means just because he says a word correctly once, does not mean he will say it correctly again, or every time.
- If the therapist is working on a specific word such as “Eat” and she is saying it over and over and Adam is repeating it, he sometimes has trouble with his brain immediately switching over to a new word. So if he is saying, “Eat” over and over and then wants to then play with his toy bus, he has pointed to it and said, “Eat.” His brain has not yet switched over fast enough for him to say the word, “Bus” so he says the last word he remembers: “Eat.”
- Apraxia can also appear in the form of not being able to say the beginning or end consonants of words. Adam says, “Buh” for “Bus” and no matter how many times we try to help him with the “s” sound he can’t add it to the beginning or end of words. He can’t say, “Stop,” but he can say, “Bop” which to him is the same thing. Now, we ask him what sound does a snake make, he can easily say, “Sssssss,” but when it comes to adding this consonant to the beginning or end of words it is near impossible for him.
So for those wondering… Apraxia is NOT a speech delay. It is a neurological disorder that requires hours of therapy and tons of work and repetition. While this has been hard for us, there are so many days we rejoice in my son’s new words. Lately, it seems more and more words are coming, and each and every one make my heart melt and my lips rejoice.
Here are a few words he has learned only recently:
- “Out-shide.” – Translation: “Outside.” He loves the outdoors and learned that one fast when he realized he could ask to go out all the time – sometimes at 6 am in the morning!
- “I deed it!” – Translation: “I did it!” This is my absolute favorite as Adam cannot say any sentences, and it is the cutest thing to hear throughout the day.
- “Ohhhh Teeee.” Translation: “OT.” His favorite therapy and the place he asks to go the most.
- “Oh, Okay.” No explanation needed!
- He has gotten so good at counting to 20 and saying his ABC’s (with help of course), but it’s our favorite thing to do. Of course some people may not be able to understand all of it, but we can, and that’s what matters most!
While there are so many words he has learned recently, he still has a long way to go. He does not understand questions nor is he able to answer them, and he still cannot speak in sentences. With his almost 2 hours of speech therapy a week, and all the work we do at home, I have no doubt he will get there soon. It’s just going to take time.
If you have any more questions or want more information on Apraxia check out these resources and links below:
- Magic of Progress
- What is Apraxia?
- Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech
- Treatment of Apraxia
- Advice for Parents of Children with Apraxia of Speech
- Apraxia of Speech – Does it Ever Melt Away?
- A Systematic Approach to Viewing and Treating Apraxia of Speech
- You can also follow my Pinterest board: Apraxia & Speech Tips for more information.
Kathryn, this is truly fascinating. The body and brain are still such a mystery, but it sounds like you have great doctors and therapists to help your family. It is so much easier to deal with a difficult situation when you know what you are dealing with. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure you will be a help to many people.
SO informative! Thanks for sharing!
Glad it was so helpful! A lot of people said they found it interesting. 🙂
My son has autism and verbal apraxia. He has the same problem with words in that they come and go. If he is tired or sick it is harder for him to speak properly and it takes so much more effort. He gets so frustrated trying to talk which makes it even harder. Good luck with your son, he’s lucky to have such good parents who want to help him.
So glad I came across your blog. My son was just recently diagnosed with Apraxia. He has a hearing loss in addition to Apraxia (and other special needs as a result of his premature birth). I look forward to checking out the links you posted.