Happy Holidays

The winner of last week’s “Anything But Silent” book giveaway is Laura. I will be sending you an email shortly regarding the details of claiming your prize. Congratulations!

I will be offering the remainder of the apraxia giveaways in January instead of December. I know us parents can get buried and overwhelmed in holiday to-dos and I would like for all of you to be able to participate in these very awesome opportunities.

So Christmas in January it will be!

At this point, the following giveaways are scheduled for January:

All of these are also great Christmas gift ideas if you have a grandparent or other special someone that would like to help your child find their voice. Also, if Santa brings you or your little ones app gift cards, this would be the perfect opportunity to try out the Speech-EZ apps.

Merry Christmas!

I hope that your holidays are filled with special memories and love.

Many blessings for 2015!

TOYS: It’s About HOW vs. WHAT

by Katie, SLP, Contributing Writer

Wondering how to pick just the right toy for your little one? Allow me to share some of my favorites as well as give you some insight into my thought process regarding choosing therapy materials.

I tend to look at a toy, puzzle, book, or game in terms of how many ways I can utilize it for addressing speech-language goals. Additionally, I, of course, look for those items which I think will be highly motivating for most kiddos.

Any toys/activities which provide multiple trials, such as cutting Velcro fruit/vegetables, putting money into toy banks, stacking nesting blocks, stringing beads, putting together jig-saw puzzles, picking ducks or fish out of a pond, pulling items out of a bag or box, and placing picture pieces on a felt board are super terrific for motivating children to imitate or produce target sounds, syllables or words. They also often provide opportunities for learning new vocabulary.

Imaginarium Felt Creations - Zoo - Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002IY59BQ/ref=s9_simh_se_p21_d0_i2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=search-desktop-advertising-no-results-center-1&pf_rd_r=0QZ19WDZNCNMVCT50306&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_p=1912906122&pf_rd_i=Toys%20'R'%20Us%20Imaginarium%20Felt%20Creations%20-%20Prehistoric%20Dinosaur

Imaginarium Felt Creations – Zoo – Amazon

food

Easy Slice Fruits and Vegetable – http://www.cptoy.com/

 

fisher price laugh and learn piggy bank

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Learning Piggy Bank – Amazon

all boys nesting blocks

All Boy Nesting Blocks – http://www.barnesandnoble.com

 

When buying books, I typically look for those which are interactive in nature. By this I mean books that include magnets, sliding parts, flaps, stickers, and the like. Receptive and expressive vocabulary as well as pronunciation of target words can be meaningfully addressed with active participation from your child.

Autism & PDD Categories 5-Book Set, Buddy Bear - http://www.linguisystems.com/products/product/display?itemid=10269

Autism & PDD Categories 5-Book Set, Buddy Bear – http://www.linguisystems.com/products/product/display?itemid=10269

"Slide and Find Christmas" - Walmart

“Slide and Find Christmas” – Walmart

"Colors - Magnetic Book" - Walmart

“Colors – Magnetic Book” – Walmart

Some of my preferred toy/book/game companies include www.lakeshorelearning.com and www.superduperinc.com. A seemingly endless supply of materials are available from these sites which include skill areas such as phonemic awareness, following directions, memory, sequencing, grammar, vocabulary, basic concepts, and questions.

Feel like singing? Fantastic CDs along with picture boards and manipulatives are available at http://www.kidscantalk.com/speech-enhancing-songs/.

Pretend play sets including kitchen, tools, baby dolls, and doctor/vet provide opportunities for exploring pronouns, following directions, vocabulary, and sentence structure. Playing with these sets opens up dialogue found in daily routines allowing for repetitive use of functional phrases needed for everyday communication.

Appealing active play items I’ve found to hold the interest of my little friends include Stomp Rockets, Velcro Mitts, Tic Tac Toe, and Elefun.

Traditional games like Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, Connect Four, Dominos, Go Fish, and BINGO can be transformed into excellent speech-language tools. I love to use Chutes and Ladders to practice using longer sentences and past tense verbs. Many games involve spinners/dice and counting which provides multiple opportunities to practice difficult sounds in number words (e.g., /f/ in “four” and “five,” /th/ in “three”). Similarly, color words offer articulation practice (e.g., /r/ in “red,” /gr/ and /bl/ in “green” and “blue”). Varieties of Dominos, Go Fish, and BINGO contain kid-friendly and trendy vocabulary.

Beyond motivation and interest, a nice starting point for choosing toys is your child’s current speech and language goals. It’s amazing how creative one can be when he/she begins looking around the house or in toy stores having a specific target sound, phrase, or skill in mind. Likewise, begin with a toy you think your child will like and brainstorm how many different teaching opportunities you can find while playing with it!

Happy shopping and Merry Christmas!

Like this post? You may also like:

Gift Ideas for Kids with Apraxia – Jake’s Journey blog, 2011

Gift Ideas for Children with Language Delays – Kid’s Creek blog, 2014

Anything But Silent … A Christmas Story and Giveaway

The first time I read Kathy and Kate Hennessy’s Christmas story in their book Anything But Silent, I cried happy tears. And yesterday when re-read it, I cried again. And then when I told my husband this story, well you guessed it … those tears started flowing again.

Because this story is that good.

This feel-good story is for every parent who has a child with apraxia and has dreaded the traditional visit to “tell” Santa what you want for Christmas. It’s also a story for SLPs and parents who have children who are blessed with the gift of communication.

anything but silent

Kathy Hennessy is the Director of Education at CASANA (Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America) and was also one of its founding members. Kathy has an intimate connection to this nonprofit group because her two children, Kate and Andrew, were both diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech when they were kids.

I wish I could take the two chapters that tell Kathy and Kate’s account of their annual visit with Santa Claus and copy them into this blog post word for word. The story was so touching, I fear leaving out the details might take away from the sparkle of their tale. Their words made the story come alive and I could feel exactly what Kathy must have went through.

In 1996, when Kate was seven years old and Andrew was four, Kathy got her kids all dressed up and took them downtown to visit Santa. The kids were at the perfect age to experience the true magic of the season. Kathy was concerned that Santa wouldn’t be able to understand what Andy wanted for Christmas because he primarily used sign language to communicate and so she cut pictures of the toys he wanted out of catalogues and glued them onto a list.

Kathy writes …

But that Christmas, my concern was Santa Claus. Kate, at seven-years-old was excited and ready for the holiday season. But for the first time, Andy was really aware of what was going on around him at that time of year. It was more than bright lights and yummy smells. It was SANTA CLAUS! And he was ready for it. But I was more than a little nervous. What if Santa didn’t understand what Andy was saying? What if Andy finally reached Santa’s lap and Santa just didn’t get it?

While we waited in line, both kids practiced what they were going to say. Andy was of course supplementing his grunts with amazingly accurate sign language. As we got closer to Santa, my stomach started to churn. I desperately wanted this to be a good experience, yet I had absolutely no control. What if Santa didn’t get it?

Finally, it was our turn. Santa reached out to Andy and took him into his lap. Andy started with the sign language and the paper with the pictures on it. I held my breath. Somehow Santa got it! He signed right back to Andy and used Andy’s picture list to find out exactly what this little boy wanted for Christmas. I couldn’t help it, I started to cry. He spent the next fifteen minutes with my child and made him feel like the only kid there. And then he did the same with Katie. This department store Santa had made my child feel like any other kid that went to see Santa. As we were leaving, Santa got up and tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, “You’re doing a good job, Mom.” All the way home, I couldn’t stop talking about this wonderful Santa. Katie and Andy couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. Wasn’t Santa supposed to be all things that are good?

Are you melting yet? Well, the story doesn’t end there …

The next year Kathy couldn’t wait to take her kids back to see that same special Santa, but when they arrived at the department store, he was not there! Their Santa was gone and she had no idea what his name was. After a few phone calls, Kathy tracks down their Santa – Wayne Brinda – only to realize that it is December 20th and it’s his last day on duty at another local store.

But, what does this awesome Santa do?

He says he will make a special house visit and he and his wife surprise the kids by showing up at Kathy’s home after dinner on December 23rd!!!

Kathy writes …

When the appointed hour came along and the doorbell rang I let Katie and Andy open the door, and standing there was our Santa. He was so amazing. He sat with Andy in our big comfy chair for almost an hour.

Picture from "Anything But Silent," Andy with Santa, Posted by www.jakes-journey-apraxia.com

Picture from “Anything But Silent,” Andy with Santa, Posted by http://www.jakes-journey-apraxia.com

He never forgot Katie and made her feel special too. I couldn’t stop crying and tried to hide behind the video camera. He made communication with Andy seem effortless, even though Andy was so excited that any speech skills he had were forgotten. Santa asked each child what was one special thing they really wanted for Christmas. Both kids decided that Beanie Babies were the one thing they had to have for Christmas. Santa promised them Beanie Babies. Then he was gone!

I was trying to figure out where we were going to get Beanie Babies the day before Christmas when the phone rang later that night. It was Wayne and he wanted to thank me for the opportunity to get to know my children. I started to cry some more! This incredible man was so generous and here he was thanking me.

Kathy goes out to fight the crowds the day of Christmas Eve day on a quest to find Beanie Babies. She finally finds them, wraps them up, and puts them under the tree.

Kathy closes the story by saying …

You would think that was the end of the story, but then again you don’t know Wayne. When I opened the door the next morning, there on the front porch, waiting patiently to be found, were the Beanie Babies Santa had promised. I was totally overwhelmed by this man’s kindness and generosity of spirit. He was truly Santa Claus – our Santa Claus.

The next chapter in Anything But Silent is Kate’s memory of this story and is titled “That’s not the way I remember it!”

Kate gives so much good insight, but my favorite words are these …

Even though my mom was worried about how the speech thing would go, Andy and I never connected Santa Claus with our inability to communicate like other children. And yet, ten years later, I have conversations with my mom and realize there was a whole other side to most of the everyday things that Andy and I took for granted. Not once in all those years did I ever think of not being able to tell Santa what I wanted for Christmas; not once, not ever.

Picture from "Anything But Silent," Kate with Santa, Posted by www.jakes-journey-apraxia.com

Picture from “Anything But Silent,” Kate with Santa, Posted by http://www.jakes-journey-apraxia.com

When I read this book a year ago, I dreamed of sharing this story during the holidays. Thank you Kathy and Kate for gifting us with this story. As far as I’m concerned, you ladies have a shot at turning this into a holiday movie on Lifetime or Hallmark. After all, with Christmas movies starting daily in November, I’m sure there’s a demand! Kate, you got connections, girl … go for it!

Kathy Hennessy has graciously offered to give away one free copy of Anything But Silent. To register, all of you have to do is leave a comment below (what you say is up to you) or shoot me an email at tstarmom5@yahoo.com. Registration will close at the end of the day on Saturday, December 13th and I will announce the winner a week from today.

I will be hosting a few more giveaways this month.

Follow me on Facebook to receive these posts in your news feed.

Happy Holidays!

* To read more about this book, click here to read the review I wrote back in May of this year.

Apraxia … Not Afraid

by Tara, Contributing Writer

There are days I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster (that I never bought a ticket for) and I can’t get off.

Other days I think “you know what … I can do this … we can do this … two kids with apraxia … yep, we’ve got it covered.”

Then BAM!

I get jolted right back into that rollercoaster seat.

Figuring out schedules between private speech therapy (x2) and private occupational therapy (x2) plus different schools and free services that each child qualifies for through those schools (and don’t forget to throw in some “normal” activities like swim lessons) kind of feels like rocket science sometimes. Or like I should be a crazy juggler in a traveling circus.

Also finding the right therapists/approaches/techniques has been very different for each of my children.

Now we are AGAIN battling with my son’s school about his IEP (that would take about 12 blogs to explain fully). Our son also seems to be hitting a plateau of sorts in his progress which is very common. But, do we find another new speech therapist? Shake things up a bit? Stay where we are and keep our fingers crossed? Do more sessions? Fewer sessions? Does he need a break? Do we push even harder?

He’s only four years old.

But, plenty of blogs I’ve read have mentioned their children have “graduated” from apraxia by kindergarten.

Holy crap. Kindergarten?

We aren’t even remotely close to saying goodbye to speech therapy. That seems like a far, far away dream.

It makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

Honestly, sometimes lately I get jealous reading other blogs. Pure jealously. My son has been in speech therapy since 18 months old and he still has a long road ahead.

His school speech therapist mentioned to me this week she “hopes” he’s out of speech by 5th or 6th grade. WHAT?!?!?! 5th or 6th grade?!?!

Our daughter on the other hand has blossomed and soared past her big brother (NOT that it’s a competition because it most certainly isn’t).

But, even in our same house it’s hard NOT to compare the apraxia journey. Why is she so much farther ahead? Why can’t our son “catch up” faster? He has MORE speech therapy sessions (and OT) than her every week! Ugh.

Eminem, Song - Not Afraid, Album - Recovery

Eminem, Song – Not Afraid, Album – Recovery

So today, I pause for a moment. Take a breath. And promise myself to repeat the following over and over again when I feel a dark hole starting to swallow our family.

There is NO set path for apraxia.
There is NO set path for sensory processing challenges.
There is NO perfect solution for taking away the hurt and heartache of seeing your child work so incredibly hard to make even a tiny sound.

Every single child needs and deserve their own time … their own space … their own resources to get to their destination. Every single child will have bumps along the way. Every single child will handle those bumps differently.

As parents, the best we can do is BE THERE.

Be there as a cheerleader.
Be there as their advocate.
Be there as their voice.

Keep researching. Keep fighting. Keep researching some more. Ask questions. Speak up. Ask more questions. Try something. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Listen to your gut. Then, try something else again.

* To read Tara’s bio and other posts she has wrote, click on her name at the beginning of this piece.

Social Media

I am finally diving into social media and I guess I must be the typical writer introvert because it all feels a little unnatural to me. Isn’t that kind of ironic since I’ve bared my soul to all of you for the past three years as “tstarmom”? But, when I start using my full name on social media, I turn into a big nervous Nelly and clam up.

Since Jake went off to school this year, I’ve been trying to find my way in the world of writing. I have a journalism degree and have spent my life writing for free, but I’d really like to turn it into a full-time career. I announced the launch of my second blog Family Live Life Well a couple of months ago, but have since deleted it. I found out that I really like learning about integrative medicine, but not writing about it full-time.

I am now working on plan B book, however, and will continue writing about apraxia. I’d also like to write articles on food allergies, faith/Christianity, writing, and yes, integrative medicine. Who knows really, what I will end up doing … I am figuring it out as I go along.

I would greatly appreciate your social media support!

Right now I am a small fish in a big sea. In order to get my work published in magazines or by publishing houses, I must have a social media presence. I can be found at the following places:

Click here to follow me on Facebook
Click here to follow me on Twitter
Click here to follow me on Pinterest

You can also follow me by clicking on the social media icons to the right of this page.

I’ve started including share icons at the bottom of each post. I thought this would be a great way to get out the word on apraxia as well as make it easy for guest/contributing writers to share their stories with family and friends.

Thank you for your help!

I hope you and yours enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend!

Gratitude Brings Us Happiness

by Amber, Contributing Writer

There are many things to be grateful for in life, and it seems people take the month of November to post these things daily on social media. I always enjoy reading the posts by family and friends. It’s nice to get a glimpse into the things in their life that bring them joy, beyond the obvious. Coming up with 30 days of gratitude pushes a person past the typical “I’m thankful for family, friends, food, shelter, employment, and health.”

gratitude

I thought I’d take this time to post a few things I’m grateful for in regards to people and situations brought into my life because of apraxia. When I first heard the term Childhood Apraxia of Speech, I was grateful we weren’t dealing with a serious or life threatening illness, but my heart still hurt knowing my children would struggle. It was hard to be grateful in the beginning. Here I am, almost three years after Cason’s diagnosis and almost a year after Callen’s diagnosis, and I can now see many things to be grateful for when it comes to apraxia.

There are the obvious things for which I am grateful, like family and friends’ support, great speech therapists, and a wonderful developmental pediatrician. For this post, I wanted to touch on a few other things.

I am grateful for the support group I have found online. I have met so many wonderful parents through their personal blogs about apraxia and through Facebook support groups. Their kind words, experiences, and knowledge have been so helpful and encouraging over the years. Nobody I knew personally had ever dealt with apraxia, so finding people online that were experiencing the exact same thing, or had already been through it, was very comforting.

That leads me to another thing for which I am grateful, being able to give support and encouragement to other parents. I have enjoyed sharing Cason and Callen’s experiences with other parents. I enjoy sharing information, articles, blogs, and resources. I remember how overwhelming it was when I was first trying to sort through all of the information online. One of my personal goals is to always pay it forward and help other parents in any way I can when it comes to apraxia.

I am also grateful for the life lessons apraxia is teaching my daughter. Camryn is several years older than Cason and Callen. When the Cason first started going to speech, we didn’t really talk about it with Camryn. She was in public school during the appointment times, so I don’t even think she was aware of his appointments. As Cason got a little older, she tried correcting his speech a lot, and that’s when we explained to her a little bit more about apraxia. We gave her a brief, simple definition that she could understand and be able to explain to others, like her friends.

However, I started homeschooling Camryn a year ago, and she started going with us to speech appointments. She started asking a lot more questions about speech. She’s been so helpful and patient with the boys. She helps them come up with approximations when they have a hard time with a particular word. Camryn is encouraging and their own personal cheerleader when they have successes.

Of course, I think these lessons would have been learned regardless of whether the boys had speech issues. However, I may have taken them for granted or not acknowledged them in the same way.

I am also grateful for the work ethic I believe apraxia is instilling in Cason and Callen. Work ethic seems like such a grown up term for such little boys, but I wasn’t sure of another way to put it. I have watched the boys go to speech three days a week and put in thirty minutes of work, since the age of 17 months.

Yes, it may look like play to others, but they are truly working their brains to get each sound, syllable shape, and word. It doesn’t come naturally and it can be a struggle. Even with the struggle, they work hard and don’t give up. That’s not to say they haven’t had rough sessions, because they have. They are typical kids, after all. For Callen, it took longer for him to cooperate/participate vocally in speech sessions. Now, he works just as hard as Cason and complies with what is being asked of him during a session.

The persistence, determination, and work ethic they are developing are inspiring to me. It carries on beyond speech sessions. At home, they have the same determination and persistence each time I have them mimic a word correctly or have them repeat a phrase.

I am grateful for the way apraxia has opened my heart. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things even more. When Camryn was young, she actually talked early for her age. I can remember her first words, after that, I don’t really remember her evolving speech. It just happened on its own, and I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought.

With the boys, we celebrate the small things and try not to take it for granted. Every day, Callen is saying new words approximations, and I celebrate each new word. I don’t necessarily say something to anyone else, but in my mind I say “Yes!” Cason has been making longer phrases, making up his own jokes, and even tells stories that are several sentences long.

Then there is Caden, who is just about eleven months old. I have been celebrating each sound he makes. Cason and Callen didn’t babble much as infants, so I have a higher appreciation hearing Caden babble and repeat sounds back to me.

So while I’m not thankful that my sons deal with apraxia, I am very grateful for people and situations that have been brought into our lives because of apraxia.

* To read Amber’s bio and other posts she has wrote, click on her name at the beginning of this piece.

Speak the Truth, Even If Your Voice Shakes

Recently a new friend, whose son is also recovering from apraxia, came to me for advice. Although it was hard to be honest, I also felt an overwhelming need to just put it out there. I knew more than anything she needed someone to be straight-up with her.

This was uncomfortable for me because I am a nice girl, a don’t rock the boat kind of girl, a girl who crawls under a rock at the first sign of conflict, and a girl who really hates to dish out tough love … a great girl to come to if you “just” want someone to listen and then give you a big hug afterwards.

And I was faced with a decision. Do I tell her what she wants to hear or what she needs to hear?

And then it dawned on me … there are a handful of special ladies in my own journey with apraxia who stood in these same shoes … friends who were brave enough to say the uncomfortable and to push me out of my comfort zone. At the time, I didn’t always like what they said, but as the days went on, I knew they were only being honest with me and I came to accept their opinions as my own.

What if those people who came into my path knew the truth would hurt me and they decided to look the other way? Told me what I wanted to hear instead of what I needed to hear? What good would that have done? And even more shuttering to think about … Where would we be now if they would have reassured me instead of pushing me?

Once I realized the impact those ladies had on our lives, I knew what I needed to do. I had to be honest with my friend. I prayed for the right words … and it was a success.

Today I give thanks to those girls who coached me – both lovingly and firmly – out of my comfort zone for the sole purpose of helping a little boy find his voice.

meet people

Friend #1

When Jake was nearing the two-year-old mark, I was 100 percent in denial that he had a speech problem. A friend pushed me to call our state early intervention program, Babies Can’t Wait, in order to have Jake evaluated. I knew zero about speech therapy and early intervention.

During a time when everyone else was saying, “He’s fine, don’t worry,” this friend said, “Just. Do. It.” She also followed up with “Have you done it yet?” conversations. By the time I finally called when he was 27 months old, I almost felt like I was doing it for her peace of mind instead of my own.

Wow … Who knows how long I would have waited to seek speech therapy had it not been for this special friend?

I. Am. Thankful!

Friend #2

On a summer day in 2012, a few months shy of Jake’s fourth birthday, I posted a video on my blog of him doing Zoo Phonics. This program is similar to Speech-EZ in that cues are used for the different sounds. Although Jake was still struggling with his words and his focus was challenged, I remember how proud I was of that video.

I was doing it! I was teaching my baby! I was breaking the words apart by sound and he was able to read short words by doing the cues! Jake had stalled out with our local SLP and I was trying some outside the box, at-home therapy with him.

My friend, also an apraxia mama warrior, saw that video a little differently. She saw a boy who had tremendous potential (particularly with hand cues) but was in need of far more than I could give him. I had sought her advice in the past and that day, after she watched that video, she gave it to me. Straight up.

She ordered me to go, go, go to Arizona to see Lynn Carahaly.

Wow … Do you think this Georgia girl would have ever travelled cross-country to Arizona for speech therapy on her own accord? Heck no!

I. Am. Thankful!

Friend #3

In May of 2012, I received an email from a doctor who reached out to me after reading Jake’s story online. She told me she thought he would be a good candidate for the GFCF diet and supplements to target nutritional deficiencies.

This doctor was always very firm and professional with me. When I asked questions she always delivered, never veering away from the truth. She was the definition of straight-up truth-speaking. She always told me what I needed to hear instead of what I wanted to hear.

Wow … What if she would have read our story and then went about her day, never sending that initial email?

I. Am. Thankful!

mentoring is

What about you? Did anyone push you out of your comfort zone and into action mode? Who are you thankful for in your own journey with apraxia?