[by Karen Buescher, an essay for CASANA's Parent Scholarship Application for the 2009 National Conference on Childhood Apraxia of Speech]
Zack is 3 years old and was just recently diagnosed with mild oral apraxia and moderate CAS. Zack was born healthy with no complications at birth. All developmental milestones were met at the appropriate age except for speech and language. Zack was always a quiet baby and would easily entertain himself with play. At 15 months of age, he said his first word, "duck". However, he only said that for a few months and still to this day cannot say "duck". I did not realize that he was not developing speech like he should. See, not only am I Zack's mom, but I am also a speech therapist. One thing that I have learned from Zack having speech delay is that it is sure hard to separate being a mom and being a speech therapist. Don't get me wrong, knowledge is good; however, that knowledge can lead you to over diagnose your child so many times.
As I stated earlier, I am a speech therapist; a speech therapist who has limited knowledge about CAS. Many people take for granted that since I am a speech therapist, I should have known what to do to make my own son talk better. In response, I try to compare speech therapists to a doctor that specializes in one certain area. For example, if you are having chest pains, your family doctor may refer to a cardiologist. In the same token, if your child has apraxia of speech, you look for a speech therapist who has knowledge about apraxia of speech. Zack's dad, my husband has less knowledge than me. I try my best to explain speech terms to him but he has the look of deer in the headlights. The fact that we have little knowledge is going to change since we will be advocating for and assisting Zack to receive the services that he needs to improve his speech.
Zack is affected by CAS by not having his speech understood and he gives up easily. I am sure that Zack would love to speak to anyone and have his message understood without having to repeat himself numerous times. Zack becomes frustrated with talking and many times will stop trying to convey his thought or message. Fortunately for Zack, I can usually understand what he is trying to say. However, I cannot always be with him so I have to give Zack credit because he has learned other ways to communicate. He will use gestures or take you to what he is talking about. Also recently I have noticed that Zack is saying, "I can't do that." Of course he says it as "I ant U dat." This response is given frequently when we are practicing sounds or words. It absolutely breaks my heart to hear my little boy give up so easily. The one positive that I keep holding onto is that Zack has a great personality that makes him so fun to be around. I am hopeful that his personality will help others overlook his speech problems.
Zack has not only figured out how to get his message across, but also has figured out that if he plays alone, he will not have to talk to others. Many times when around other children, Zack will go and play by himself. Again, it breaks my heart to see my little boy playing by himself when other children are around. Hopefully, with time, his speech will improve and so will his desire to play with others.
As for the affect for us, his parents, we are relieved to have a diagnosis. Yes, it was hard at first to accept the diagnosis of CAS. one of the many hopes and dreams that all parents have for their children is to experience healthy, normal development. Then when we realized that our child was not developing speech sounds and talking like he should, we thought finding a diagnosis would explain why. Well, the diagnosis did help explain why; however, now we have many more questions and concerns. Many of these questions are about his future since he will be starting preschool in the fall. Will the other kids understand him? Will he be made fun of because he does not talk like the other children? Will he lose his happy go lucky personality that makes him so much fun to be around? So many unanswered questions that only time will answer.
As human beings, we take so many things for granted. The one thing that we will never take for granted is being able to have a conversation with Zack. We look forward to the day when we can sit down as a family and talk about our day. Currently, we can ask Zack about his day by asking him simple yes/no questions so that he does not get frustrated with his response. We will completely cherish the day when Zack can tell us what he did hopefully without having to repeat himself in order to be understood.