by Sam, Contributing Writer
At about 18 months old when my genuine concern for Andon’s speech and other challenges set in, I began living a roller coaster of worry, followed by high stress with sleepless nights of research. These spells were typically followed by some sort of specialist with a plan, in which case we exhale and hope that this time the plan will be miraculous. Needless to say, we usually ended up in a rut with some level of disappointment.
We live in a small town where we have seen several SLPs over the years. There just isn’t a lot of education and information pertaining to apraxia here despite the fact that our therapists do have some experience with it. It’s not that we’ve been completely unhappy with all of our SLPs, but often months go by without progress and then we have to start researching and pushing on our own to get the ball rolling again.
We’ve considered heading to Kaufman Children’s Center several times over the last couple of years, but for various reasons it never seemed like the perfect fit. We attended the CASANA conference in Nashville last year where we met Dave Hammer. My husband attended several of his seminars and tremendously appreciated his personality, passion, and experience. He suggested I skip my last CASANA seminar and see Dave with him.
I was hesitant to join in his excitement. This was my husband’s first real hands-on experience and I saw the excitement in him that I’ve felt so many times in the past only to be let down. Being a stay at home mom, I typically do the research, make the calls and plans, and then implement new ideas. But I went, and also really enjoyed his speech. We had a meeting with Mr. Hammer and planned to pursue a trip to see him in September.
Life did its usual and we had to move our trip to December, but we decided to dive in and make it happen. I was nervous to say the least. We planned a sitter for our other two children and planned the trip to Pittsburgh. Andon has never traveled well and his sensory issues really surface with travel, new places, and new people. We drove straight through for nine hours with just a few small stops. With plenty of activities in hand Andon was an outstanding traveler. Answered prayer for sure!
We arrived, settled into the hotel, ate dinner out, and then relaxed with Andon at the hotel in hopes of keeping him comfortable and calm. We talked with Andon about what to expect over the next couple of days. I’m pretty sure he was convinced that Dave Hammer was a super hero given his last name so he became excited.
We scheduled two days of 2.5 hour sessions with Dave Hammer. We attended our first session the following day. We had sent in information about Andon prior to our visit, which gave his history of health and speech as well as a description of his personality and interests. We entered the speech room which was filled with toys of interest to Andon! Of course that helped the transition.
Mr. Hammer introduced himself, shared some toys with Andon, and then spoke with us. This was perfect to get Andon acclimated and comfortable. After speaking with us, he showed Andon the other side of a two-way mirror where we would watch them play. To my surprise my son, who stays with no one, walked into the speech area alone with Dave Hammer!
We watched as he implemented an informal evaluation to gain the information that he needed. It was not a constant sit down, drill type, pencil and paper evaluation. He gained, in two and a half hours, the information that he needed to create a diagnosis, prognosis, written report, and plan of action for Andon. He also observed Andon playing with us to confirm his carry over and ability in his comfort zone. Dave Hammer also managed to get multiple sounds that we’ve not heard from Andon.
The following day we observed another two and a half hour session. This time Dave implemented therapy strategies that would produce the best results for Andon. He videoed these strategies, as he did them, to have as a resource for home and for our SLPs. Andon was pretty well ‘done’ at this point but Mr. Hammer’s ability to keep him on task without producing battles was quite impressive.
Dave then spoke with us about the report he was writing up and what our current goals should be. He confirmed our apraxia diagnosis, which was a strange relief because we’ve had some challenges with diagnosis in the past. A diagnosis challenge causes problems in therapy strategies as well as with insurance.
Now we are excited to have provided our current speech therapist with the reports and videos provided by Dave Hammer. We are also excited to have found an additional SLP who is inexperienced in apraxia but sweet, intelligent, and eager to study the reports and videos to implement weekly therapy with Andon. Our visit to CASANA was a wonderful and comforting experience. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is feeling a little lost and unsure of what speech path they should travel.
Sitting in that office I felt as if bricks had been lifted from my shoulders. I was finally in a place where I knew that the people helping my son were absolutely as passionate as I am, but also incredibly talented and experienced in apraxia. To be honest, if Dave Hammer was still providing weekly therapy, I’d be tempted to move to Pittsburgh!
Some things implemented by Dave Hammer:
- He preferred more of a play setting in therapy to prevent burn out given Andon’s age and amount of sessions needed per week.
- He recommended that we let go of some of the sounds that we’ve been working on because Andon provides substitutions for those sounds. Instead focus on some sounds that are completely omitted.
- He recommended a multi-sensory approach including visual prompts, touch cues, picture cues and verbal prompts with repetition of quality practice words. Some activities from “Easy Does it Apraxia” can be used to implement these.
Of course there’s so much more, but his plans are very individualized. We also now have the option to have phone conferences with Mr. Hammer when concerns arise either for ourselves or our SLPs. My personal hope is to meet the goals he has set for us and to return for a reevaluation and new goals in the next year.
For more information on Dave Hammer’s services, please click here.
Bio: Sam lives in Kentucky with her husband of ten years and four children. Her son Andon was diagnosed with apraxia of speech at age three. He has a severe peanut allergy and some other food intolerances. Andon also has sensory processing disorder along with some sleep challenges. She is a stay at home, homeschooling mom with a bachelors degree in elementary education and a masters in early childhood.