Wells’ speech therapist’s contract was not being renewed by the Help Me Grow organization that Wells receives services. We were devastated to hear this because Wells had gotten comfortable with her. At our last session, she gave me a packet of information about a motor speech disability called, Apraxia. After working with Wells for six months, it was her professional opinion that I look into this with his next speech therapist. Huh? – I thought he was just a little behind…
Before meeting with his new therapist, I Googled Childhood Apraxia of Speech. I learned that it’s an uncommon disorder where Wells would have difficulty making accurate motor movements when speaking. In CAS, the brain struggles to develop plans for speech movement. With this disorder, the speech muscles aren’t weak, they just don’t perform normally because the brain has difficulty directing the movements. CAS is treated with speech therapy and the Help Me Grow program set Wells up with a speech therapist who has advanced training and expertise in Apraxia.
Jody, his new speech therapist, met with us to give Wells an evaluation. She heard the dropping of consonants, the inconsistency of speech patterns, and saw his frustration when we couldn’t understand what he was trying to say. She was quick to inform us that while CAS couldn’t be diagnosed until age four, Wells most certainly has a motor speech delay – something he won’t just grow out of. Therapy is the only treatment for CAS and we go two/three times a week.
When we repeat words how Wells pronounces them, back to him for example, “ickey” for Mickey, he tells us we’re saying it wrong. He knows how words are supposed to sound, he just can’t make his mouth do it. It’s heartbreaking to see him struggle. To speak correctly, Wells’ brain has to learn how to make plans that tell his speech muscles how to move his lips, jaw and tongue in ways that result in accurate sounds with normal speed and rhythm. He can make the “m” sound however, he cannot connect it so it sounds like “mmm” space “icky”.
In six months, Wells has mastered isolated consonant sounds “h”, “m”, “s”, “p”, “b”, “f”, “w”, and “sh” at the beginning of words. We are practicing those sounds with syllable combinations ie. “fa” and “moo”. Kinesthetic movements help Wells remember how to correctly manipulate his mouth. Right now, we are working on the word, “open”. He does not naturally put the “p” sound in the middle of the word. We practice by making a big, “o” with our arms and then move our hand under our chin like we’re blowing a kiss. When the words are broken down, Wells has more success.
Wells will no longer receive paid services through the Help Me Grow organization when he turns three. At three years old, children can receive disability services through their public school system (pre-k). We have decided to not enroll Wells in the pre-k program through our district. The school only offers a half-day service, four days out of the week and that does not work with our work schedules. To make sure Wells is supported with his speech needs, we will continue to see Jody and charge our health insurance for the visits.
Speech therapy at two years old : Wells often falls asleep in the car before we get to speech therapy. He runs down the hallway like Sonic, and counts the stairs when we leave. When he wears snow or rain boots, they often get in his way during floor activities so they usually get thrown off. Wells will randomly get into a yoga pose. If an animal is brought up, like a frog or bunny, he’ll act it out. It’s fun and I’m always proud of him.