Apraxia Awareness Month 2018
Awareness of Childhood Apraxia of Speech
Thank you to the Tallahassee Democrat for highlighting the importance of childhood apraxia of speech during May Is Better Hearing & Speech Month which coincides with Apraxia Awareness Month!
This is the full article written by Lori Savage Grayson, MMSc, CCC-SLP, FSL
According to Apraxia Kids, for the first time, the entire month of May has been designated Apraxia Awareness Month and corresponds with May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, sponsored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder in which a child knows what he or she wants to say but has difficulty sending the message from their brain to their mouth. It is a significant problem with motor planning and coordination of the lips, tongue, jaw and palate to produce intelligible speech. CAS is not related to weak muscles, is not the same as a speech sound disorder, and will not be outgrown.
As a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) with more than 37 years of successful experience working with children with childhood apraxia of speech, Lori Savage Grayson, MMSc, CCC-SLP, FSL – owner and founder of Children’s Communication Center (CCC), a local pediatric private practice in Speech-Language Pathology – seeks to inform the community about CAS.
Historically, the idea that a child could be diagnosed with apraxia, previously called dyspraxia or developmental apraxia, was a constant battle challenging pediatric SLPs who believed this was a real disorder.
The use of “developmental” in a diagnosis confounded the issue as it was interpreted as a problem which would develop over time, but in a delayed fashion. This is not true of CAS.
With an adult medical model as the only example, many believed that a child could not exhibit or be diagnosed with this type of disorder. Many adults who suffered from a stroke lost their skills and were then diagnosed with apraxia. The prefix “a-“ denotes the loss of a skill.
Hence, the standard of adult disorders did not allow room for a childhood diagnosis. How could a young child lose a skill they had not yet developed? They couldn’t, so this cannot be the cause.
However, SLPs, both in clinical and research settings, fought to distinguish this real and significant childhood speech disorder. Currently, CAS has more support by a wider base of professionals, however, increased awareness, understanding, insurance coverage, and funding for research, training, and education remain critical for families living with CAS.
As with all communication concerns, early identification and intervention are paramount to a child’s success. CAS requires intensive and individualized Speech-Language Pathology intervention.
Parents often ask if sign language will keep their child from learning to talk. Grayson states that in her experience, a child who is receptive and able to sign, becomes a communicator and learns to use the highest level of functional communication. Once a verbal word is established, the sign will be used less and less. However, it is also important to understand that not all children are receptive or able to use sign language, in which case other options are available.
“I am fortunate that my experience with childhood apraxia of speech began during my graduate school program in the School of Medicine at Emory University and continued throughout my early career.
My training and experience with CAS was one of the driving forces in my founding Children’s Communication Center,” said Grayson. “My Center’s first family arrived with a young daughter and explained that they were told she would never talk. However, over several evaluation sessions, I was able to diagnose CAS. It was then that we embarked on learning sign language to decrease her frustration and increase her expressive communication skills while at the same time addressing the speech motor challenges of CAS and learning to speak.”
For parents who think their child may have CAS, there is help through visiting an ASHA-certified SLP who is trained and experienced in diagnosing and providing intensive and appropriate SLP intervention for CAS, as well as, other speech-language-learning-communication challenges.
Contact this Center to speak with Ms. Grayson if you have concerns regarding your child’s communication development.
As a special to the Tallahassee Democrat’s Chronicle, an abbreviated version was published on May 30, 2018 and can be read here.