by Sam, Contributing Writer
No way!!! Has it really been an entire year since we visited CASANA? It went by in a blink.
When I look back at the ambition and optimism at that moment, my immediate thought is that it went by so quickly, I didn’t even have time to be sure we stayed on task. Our ultimate goal after visiting Dave Hammer was to integrate his goals into therapy for the year.
We gave it a few months and then realized that it was time for a change in therapists. We needed a fresh start with someone who had different ideas and who was open to integrating some of Dave’s strategies.
We decided to take the plunge with a local SLP whose name we had heard of several times over the years, but the cost per session had been holding us back. Despite her waiting list, she managed to fit us in sooner than originally planned. So the day before my C-section with baby number four, we went in for an evaluation.
Nervous but excited, we were accepted and placed on her schedule twice a week. She felt good about allowing Andon to drop to twice a week given the amount of time he’s spent in speech therapy over the last three years. I was hesitant, but listened since it was easier financially as well.
We were happy that she also respected our desire to incorporate Dave’s recommendations into Andon’s therapy plan. We were surprised when visiting Dave that “simple” things on the top of his list hadn’t been noticed or dealt with despite multiple speech therapists.
The following are some (not all) of the things Dave Hammer suggested we focus on:
1.) Vowel Distortion. When Andon was diagnosed with apraxia at age three, our SLP went through the vowels with him and was pleased. Long /a/ was a tricky one for him and he always substituted with a short /a/. Other than that, the vowels sounded good. We moved on and never considered revisiting them.
At first I was shocked when Dave pointed out vowel distortion, but once I was aware of the problem, it became obvious. Most of the vowels had a sneaky substitution of another vowel.
Dave suggested using Turtle Vowels – Easy Does it for Apraxia of Speech. Our new SLP printed the materials to go along with it and this was our “at home work.” This was another perk for us because we had consistently asked other speech therapists for at home practice, but rarely received it.
Man were these vowels tricky! We watched our SLP’s strategies for getting the sounds from him and we copied them. When Andon accurately made the vowel sounds, we focused on repetition. The vowels alone turned out to be quite a job.
2.) Omitted Consonant Sounds. Dave suggested we focus on omitted consonant sounds instead of substituted consonant sounds. He was right again. A word without a sound was much harder to make out than one with a substituted sound.
3.) Missing Functors. These are also called “function words” and Andon was specifically omitting the following state of being verbs: is, am, was. Dave gave us some strategies for adding missing functors back into Andon’s vocabulary.
Our new SLP had a plan in place for all these things and we were able to get started. We were also happy that she immediately began integrating some Kaufman, which had rarely been used with Andon.
Where Are We At Now?
Our speech therapist works hard with Andon. She fits a lot into her time with him, but also watches him for burnout and integrates play when needed. We have, for the most part, reached each of the goals implemented by Dave Hammer and continue to progress.
My suggestion to those of you years into therapy is to branch out when things get stale. Sometimes it’s simpler for a new pair of eyes and ears to get involved. Also don’t forget to revisit and review. These kiddos with apraxia can backslide at times.
Andon is progressing. It’s not a fast process, but he is progressing. He slows down when speaking and focuses on his words, sounds, and sentences in conversation consistently. I’m so very proud of him and reward him often for his hard work.
I watch my beautiful little boy (don’t tell him I said that – lol – he’s such a boy that he hates the words beautiful and pretty and prefers we call him awesome) sit with such discipline and focus each week with his SLP despite the fact that he’s just tired of going to speech. I don’t blame him. He’s been doing it for as long as he can remember.
He consistently asks me when he’ll be old enough to stop going. I just tell him it’s his job to work hard at practicing his sounds and someday he’ll be old enough to graduate. I pray that only good things come from these experiences and that he’ll be a better person for it.
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.