Jake's Journey with Apraxia

And the Friends We Met Along the Way

by Tara, Contributing Writer

Here we are! The holiday season has arrived (ready or not). In the midst of shopping, wrapping presents, long lines, pulling together travel plans, figuring out what to fill the stockings with, making cookies … well, you get it. Most likely, you are living the exact same chaos right now.

I’ve really been struggling the past couple weeks with what topic I should go with for this blog. Everything around me seems like it’s in “fast forward” yet my kids speech therapy seems to be stuck “on pause”.

Our 5-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter are both still in speech therapy twice a week. Same clinic. Same therapist. Same days of the week. Same sounds. Drilling. Over and over again. Think: Groundhog Day the movie.

The progress feels SO SLOW most of the time I want to scream.

But, as I was hanging up our holiday decorations, I found pictures of the kids from last year. They seem so little! It might as well be a million years ago. Then it hit me – hard.

Just one year ago, Christmas was a completely different story. I remember the anxiety and rivers of tears I felt as we got ready to take the kids to meet Santa. They could barely say anything. Definitely nothing close to a full sentence and their articulation (or lack thereof) made it next to impossible to understand them.

I watched other kids go up to Santa with such ease. Telling stories of why they wanted a particular train set or what exact doll they hoped to find under the tree. I tried to help our kids practice a few key words in the hope that Santa could at least somewhat figure out what they were saying?!? I felt a huge pit in my stomach.

Poor Santa sure tried, but in the end as was so often the case, I translated. The pit kept its place in my stomach.

A few days ago, our journey to see the big man in the red suit was 100% the opposite. Both kids were able to specifically tell Santa what they wanted and he understood every word! There was no need to step in and explain or ask the kids to repeat anything. THEY DID IT!

This time, my tears were punctuated with pure excitement. An example of how far they’ve come and how the hours and hours of therapy and practice at home are finally paying off.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a long road ahead. In fact, our son’s re-evaluation recently took place. The results showed that his articulation skill in single words is at his age level. Wahooo! However, he still has numerous areas that are far from the finish line. Here are a few examples directly from his report:

  • Expressively, the patient demonstrated difficulty generating sentences when a given a word and asked to use that word in a picture description task.
  • The patient demonstrates difficulty formulating complete thoughts and sentences during therapy.
  • Patient continues to have difficulty using the articles of /the/ and /a/, using the plural forms ending with /s/ or /z/ sounds, using the regular past tense of verbs ending in /ed/.
  • When an adult initiates a topic for conversation, patient will answer, but it is usually short answers. When it is longer, it tends to be unconnected pieces of information which can be difficult to track. Adult needs to ask follow-up questions to understand and maintain the conversation.
  • Patient often loses articulation when trying to formulate a sentence or begins speaking quickly (leaving the sounds off the ends of words).

Before I get too depressed in listing all of these, I will stop. His therapist goes on for several more pages on the mountain of work that remains to be done. Ugh.

However, I am forcing myself in this holiday spirit to focus on the positives. Both of my kids have come an incredibly long way!!

Many people refer to this time of the year as the season of hope. No matter how you celebrate or what religion you may or may not follow or how many family traditions you have … take a minute and look back at where your kids or grandkids started on this journey and where they are right at this moment. Every step, as little as it may seem, will add up to bigger and bigger milestones. If you don’t believe me, just ask my kids. They sure have a lot to say these days ….

Bio: Tara is the extremely proud mom of two kids who could both put the Energizer Bunny to shame. She spends her days chasing, running, chauffeuring, refereeing, counseling, scheduling, coaching, doting, teaching, cooking, playing and loving. Her little boy and girl are diagnosed with apraxia. She lives in Minneapolis and is “temporarily retired” from her days as a TV/Radio journalist until her kids are a bit older.

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