Monday, June 1, 2009

Apraxia

What a difference a few days in bed can make! I'm feeling so much better.

This morning Conor and I went to speech therapy. He has therapy every day this week, which makes it busy for me, but effective for Conor. His speech pathologist, Pat, believes that Conor is apraxic, that he has Speech Apraxia. The way it was explained to me in his case was that basically though his comprehension is fine, his brain forgets what it needs to tell his mouth to do in order to consistently make the sounds that form words. So, whereas another child could repeat a word after hearing it once or twice, Conor might need to practice it many, many times to program his brain what his mouth needed to do to say that word. He may say it fine one time, and then the third time the word is off again, and we have to re-practice it. Once he "gets it", it usually sticks, and it seems that his words are "sticking" with a lot more consistency these days, and a lot less repetition than his therapist thought he might need. This is good news. It means his apraxia is not severe, and that because we caught it early and he is having therapy, there is a very good chance that he will not need continued Speech once he's in school.

She was very encouraged today when she reported to me. Fortunately, Conor has not tired of therapy, or become bored by it. He eagerly anticipates "Pat's Office", and sits at her table and works very hard for 30 straight minutes, before they break into play therapy. He is starting to say more multi-syllabic words, and he is connecting more words together in strings to form short sentences. (Although most of them are commands like, "Stop that, Aiden! or, Get away, Dylan! or, Stop singing, Mom!) He also can repeat words more easily than before and have them sound at least in the ballpark of what they should sound like.

I get homework every day from Pat. We're practicing vowel sounds and hard vs. soft consonant sounds. She has taught me little tricks to manipulate his mouth or face to help him, and he's being taught the vocabulary of speech pathology to help him understand what he is supposed to produce. We say longer words in sing-song fashion to help him over hurdles and to encourage him to 'flow' through words. And we practice and make course-corrections throughout the day without paying it much mind, or giving in to stress. He responds very well. I read to him several times each day, and we practice just saying words. It's paying off. Pat is impressed with his progress. When he began therapy in March, I believe it was, I could make a list of all the words he could say. It was about 40 words long. Now, I couldn't even begin to list them all, and every day he surprises me with new words that I knew he could understand, but had never before said himself. Like, the other day, I held up two shirts and asked him which shirt he wanted to wear, and he replied, "Different shirt." I was surprised. "Oh, you say 'different' now, do you? Well, okay!"

We were reading Eric Carle's Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear? (one of his favorites), and upon turning the page, he blurted out "Peacock!" and the next page he said "Walrus!" Alrighty-then! It was like music to my ears.

I will not be taking a class at school this summer. We just couldn't manage the child care consistently, with my older kids gone at their dad's, but the break will do me good. My project instead will be my little boy. I have several books ordered and some therapy equipment and I will learn everything I can about apraxia and articulation, and about Conor's possible Sensory Integration issues, and he and I will have fun working and playing together. I'm looking forward to it. We've been going to the park almost every day with him, and he loves it. I've also been watching closely for the cues he's giving me about what he needs, and we'll go from there. For instance, he loves to take all the pillows from the couches, pile them up, and then hurl himself from the couch onto the pile. He loves to jump from the third or fourth step down to the floor. He loves to jump on the bed. I chalked it up to being a boy, or a daredevil, but in fact, he is giving me clues to the fact that he is craving deep pressure stimulation. We ordered a mini tramp for him to jump away on in the house, so we can give him what he needs, while still upholding the 'no jumping on the furniture' rule. I'm learning so much. Pat tells me fascinating things about how we, especially as children, seek out pleasure, and whatever it is that makes us feel good, emotionally, physically, or psychologically. The brain needs certain stimulation for proper development, and kids will seek it out to soothe themselves. Sometimes it happens like with Conor, where he's throwing himself off the couch onto a pile of pillows and I'm telling him to stop. He also likes to drag his fingers across different textures when we walk, like he wants the stroller to be close enough to the chain link fence, or the stucco wall, or the ivy, to feel the textures with his hands. That's a clue! Sometimes it exhibits like another little girl I know, where she's always chewing on her shirt sleeves or collars, and her mother tells her to stop. There are many, many ways children find what they need. I just have to learn to recognize it and then help facilitate whatever stimulation he needs, along with a good therapist, which I'm hoping he'll get also.

Anyway, that's the Conor situation. It's an adventure for both of us. And a pleasure for me, because as a mom, I have a need to see that my children get what they need and progress happily and healthily. I think we'll be okay.

8 comments:

amber watt said...

I have noticed a huge difference in Conner's speech just from the last time I saw him. He is so bright and so sweet and loving. It is so sweet to see the bond that you and Conner have. I am so happy that he is doing so well.

Loves!

Cindy said...

Yay! It must be so exciting to see him grow everyday :D

Holly said...

We went through speech and OT with our youngest. Thank goodness for early intervention, it's a godsend. We also did the Sensory thing. I remember thinking that I would do all I could to give my son the tools he needed to not only function, but to thrive. I can recommend some great books and resources if you'd like. We recently got a final diagnosis of Asperger's and are embarking on educating ourselves about it

Luisa Perkins said...

Yay! We have a boy in our ward who used to have severe apraxia, but after therapy, he is one of the most articulate six-year-olds I've ever met.

Tess loves her cocoon swing! It goes back and forth and also in circles. We got it from Southpaw Enterprises and mounted it on a beam in the basement. Actually, the whole family loves it, and the first winter we had it, all the kids were on it constantly.

Heidi Ashworth said...

Yay for Connor! I wish my kid had taken to speech therapy. At 19 he still says "walkers" instead of "lockers" (as well as some other gems) and just doesn't care.

Annette Lyon said...

That is completely fascinating. Thanks for sharing the journey and teaching us in the process!

Rachel said...

That is so interesting. Just reading that I can think of 2 or 3 different behaviors that my son loves that just might fit into that category.

So glad that his speech is improving so much. That is so frustrating for mom and child when communication is hard (I know. . .)

Kara said...

I'm so glad speech therapy is giving Connor the boost he needs! Very exciting. Our youngest, Alyssa, has apraxia. We just live in speech therapy mode around here. She is also a special needs child so that puts an interesting spin on just about everything. Her apraxia is improving -- she's almost 10 now. Connor's speech will pick up very quickly, I'm sure. It is always so exciting to hear improvement and when they start saying new things spontaneously it is awesome!