Jake's Journey with Apraxia

And the Friends We Met Along the Way

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.


One of Andon’s rewards for working hard in speech therapy.

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.

3 thoughts on “Our “New Path” Anniversary

  1. Karen says:

    Just by way of encouragement….our son was ddx with CAS at age 2.5. He also had no co-morbid ddx…..no autism or any other disorders. He was fairly extreme with the CAS as he had no words at that point. After 6 months of therapy with our local Birth-to-Three program, he increased to 4-6 words. It was a long and hard process for him. He really struggled and had to work very hard. At 3 years old we transitioned to an SLP I the local school system and he started speech therapy at the school. He continued with the school (even though we homeschool) for the next 3 years. During this time he was able to work through all the different Sounds& blends. There were still a few sounds (like /r/ and /l/) that he hadn’t mastered by age 6. But that was developmentally appropriate for his age. Since he was aging out of the school-provided therapy (he was not eligible for continued services as a homeschooler – only public and private school students were given services), they released him from therapy. They said that he would eventually fully develop those sounds he hadn’t mastered, as long as we continued to practice at home. I’m happy to say that today he is a happy and well-abled communicator at 9.5 yrs old. There are a few words that he still doesn’t pronounce perfectly, but no one who meets him can believe that he ever had a speech disorder. He is cry outgoing and loves to be the life of the party and center of attention! Multi syllabic words need to be broken down for him to learn, but he learns them easily.

    So be encouraged! There’s light at the end of the tunnel…..your years of hard work will pay off and “speech class” will become a distant memory. Our son talks about it now as something that was very hard and he is glad to be done with but he is grateful that he can speak well 😉

  2. Teresa says:

    My son was never officially diagnosed with Apraxia. We were just told that he shared many of the same symptoms as other children who were diagnosed. At age 3 he did not speak except for only a few words and the words he used for simple items such as milk were no where near the pronunciation we used. The county had us place him in a special needs pre-school. He did well and was moved on to a regular public school as an IEP student. He has continued on with his speech therapy and now seems to speak at his appropriate level, but what we are now witnessing during his 1st and 2nd grade years is that he is easily stressed and seems to lose the ability to express himself clearly or at all during these times. We don’t know what to do because these times lead to what appears to be tantrums at a 2 year old’s level. We had him in therapy through our Kaiser insurance, but never received much feed back. I have no idea if this has anything to do with Apraxia. I am just on a fishing expedition. Would you know someone we could talk to or have any other suggestions.

    1. Teresa, So sorry for the late reply! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your story. Does your child’s teacher have any suggestions? Or maybe you could talk to the SLP at his school? Jake is in first grade now and has not experienced that. So sorry! My only personal recommendation would be to consider what his diet is like. It may be useful for you to google histamine intolerance + speech + Dr. Theo in Boston. It’s very interesting the effect foods high in histamine have on some children’s speech and behavior. Jake has been intolerant for 1 year now, but his symptoms were eczema and asthma. Now, however, if he has something like a banana, typically 10 minutes later he will be crying/emotional. He is also gluten and casein free, but those 2 things, at least with us, never caused behavior/mood changes. Best of luck to you.

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