Jake's Journey with Apraxia

And the Friends We Met Along the Way

Jake is the baby of our family … the youngest of three boys.

Although Jake wasn’t diagnosed with apraxia until age three, he began speech therapy when he was a little over two years old. And even as a baby, before I knew the threat of a speech disorder loomed in the distance, my life was consumed with severe eczema, ear infections, mild asthma, and food allergies.

All of these things have eaten up my mommy time. And the combination of being the baby of the family, along with these other challenges, stalled out the typical big boy aspirations.

Jake will start kindergarten in August and will turn six in September. There are some skills I want him to have in place before he starts school and I have come to refer to this mission as “Operation Big Boy.”

What are the goals of Operation Big Boy?

1.) Bathroom skills – My neighbor, the Pre-K 4 teacher, has been all over me to make this happen for over a year now. It is the ultimate annoyance for a teacher to have a child that cannot take care of #2 moments.

I am having to play hardball with Jake because he’s been using his skilled mama as a crutch for several months. I have explained to him the proper way to do this job and when he calls for me I have to stand firm and say, “No, do the best job you can.”

2.) Thumb sucking – Oh my, this is a hard one and the one I have been the least disciplined on. Jake loves to suck his thumb when he goes to sleep. We were putting a sock on his hand at bedtime for a while and that was working for several weeks, but I just cave when he wants to do it. My husband is much better at enforcing this rule; I am a weakling.

3.) Going to sleep by himself – When Jake was about three, my husband started putting him to bed on a regular basis. He would snuggle and fall asleep with him. This habit resulted in a little boy that refused to go to sleep on his own.

But, success! For the past few months, we have a new routine … bath, probiotic, brush teeth, pajamas, read a book, and prayers. I snuggle with him for about a minute and then leave the room. He has adapted and is doing great.

4.) Tying shoes – After about two weeks, I gave up on this one and bought velcro shoes. I’m pretty sure at some point in his life he will figure out how to make this happen.

5.) Showering/bathing himself – Yes, pre-Operation Big Boy I was soaping my child up and drying him. In my defense, it’s always been important to me for him to bathe well because of his allergies. Not only does he need to make sure the allergens are off of him to promote wellness, but he also has flare-ups of eczema on his heels due to his grass allergy.

This skill is in progress. It’s been hard to teach him how to soap up properly and sometimes I cave and do it for him. But, for the most part I want to eliminate this chore in my life and the only way to do that is to teach him and stand firm.

6.) Swimming – Last week Jake took swim lessons for the first time. I swear, this kid would wear floaties for the rest of his life if I’d let him. I have been hesitant to put him in swim lessons because until this year, he couldn’t communicate very well – especially in a stressful situation. I didn’t want him imploding emotionally because he couldn’t express that he was terrified.

A few times last week it got ugly, but by the end of the four days, he was swimming pretty good and finally jumped in by himself. It didn’t come naturally or easily for him and many tears were shed, but he did learn some basic skills that he will be able to build on for the remainder of the summer.

Closing …

In addition to not forcing my child to do the skills above, I have been guilty of being a helicopter parent. I have just always felt the need to shelter and protect my little boy. I wasn’t this bad with my other two children. I think it goes along with the apraxia and/or food allergy territory. Don’t you think?

I’m a lot like Jake when his swim teacher had to throw him into the deep end last week when he was making up every excuse in the book not to jump in. I literally had to force myself not to go in after him, but I knew he had to figure this out on his own.

He had to learn. He had to grow. He had to swim, not sink. And as a parent, it is my responsibility to allow that to happen.


5 thoughts on “Operation Big Boy

  1. Belinda says:

    Good luck!!! Our husbands sound quite similar!!! My husband was the expert scratcher with my then 3 yr old’s eczema. It got worse at night, and of course dad was way more willing to snuggle (and fall asleep himself) and scratch longer than mommy, so we created a REAL night time monster too. At 4.5 now, she still wants us to snuggle before she goes to bed. My husband says we’ll miss these days, so it’s tough to say no or only for a little while but sometimes necessary.

    1. tstarmom says:

      Belinda, Awww – that’s so sweet. Yes, we will miss these days I’m sure. I love snuggling. I hope you are doing good. How was the new acupuncturist at Dr. Bhatia’s office? We went to a new one a few weeks back who does Japanese acupuncture. I’d love to swap stories. If you get a moment, shoot me an email. Enjoy your weekend!

  2. Laura says:

    I do think it goes with the apraxia territory. With my daughter I have to fight the temptation to still cut up her grapes because she used to overstuff and choke, hover around the playground because she used to lose her balance, etc. When I’m in a hurry it’s hard not to just feed her or dress her myself, but I am really trying to just have patience and let her struggle but learn on her own. It’s a hard line we walk.

    1. tstarmom says:

      Laura, Thanks for your comments. So glad I am not the only one who has struggled in this area! I used to also put food in Jake’s mouth and dress him for what seemed like forever. I think I did those things until last summer (right before his 5th birthday). Yes, apraxia etc. teaches us mamas patience.

  3. Jenn Budd says:

    Hi Tori,
    Thank you so much for writing this blog! My son, Rylan, is 2.5 and only has 2 words (“Mama” and “No”). We have been in speech therapy for about 7 months now. I was wondering if I could have the opportunity to talk to you regarding your son’s journey to he diagnosis and his improvements. I am so lost and would love to speak to someone who has gone through it!

    Thank you so much for your time!

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