Daybreak Bechtold: Apraxia of Speech is a uncommon dysfunction, however dad and mom of an affected baby can discover help
Almost any parent will tell you that parenting is the hardest and most rewarding job you will ever have. There is no love that compares to the unconditional love you have for your child. Parenting a child with apraxia of speech is no different.
Apraxia of Speech is a disorder you’ve probably never heard of, and that’s fine. I had never heard of it until my daughter was diagnosed. The reason you’ve probably never heard of it is because it’s a rare condition that only 1 or 2 in 1,000 children are diagnosed with.
Apraxia of Speech is a motor language disorder. With Apraxia of Speech, the child knows what to say, but unlike children who don’t have this language disorder, their brain doesn’t inherently tell their mouth the exact movements it takes to say it. You need to learn these movements through frequent and intense speech therapy. A child with Apraxia of Speech has to say a word or sound a thousand times before it becomes automatic for them. However, it is important to note that apraxia of language has no effect on a child’s intelligence or understanding. While there can be a variety of causes, most of the time it is idiopathic (the cause is unknown).
It is a scary experience when your child receives any type of diagnosis, especially one that you are unfamiliar with. This is because the last thing you want to feel as a parent is helpless. It is easy to succumb to fear of the unknown. I can’t speak for other parents, but the guilt I felt when we received my daughter’s diagnosis was staggering. I went through every little detail in my head. Did something I do cause that? Is there anything I could have done differently?
Neither parent wants their child to fight. In my mind, it was my job to protect them from these battles. I know now that it was never my fault, it was never something I did, but as a mom I feel that self-blame is in our nature. It took me time to realize that.
The thing is, as the years went by on this journey with Apraxia, I started to learn that while I never would have liked it, it is nothing to fear. Having apraxia taught my daughter resilience. It taught them perseverance. It taught them that everything in life is worth working for that is worth seeing. I am immensely proud.
As a mother, it forced me to face my fears. I have avoided conflict all my life, but as a mother who fights for my child every day, I have learned that I no longer have this luxury. It’s my job to be on the front lines for my daughter every day. To stand up for them. To show her what it means to be brave. It made me leave my comfort zone, and that’s fine because my daughter is infinitely more important than my comfort zone.
The reason you’re reading this, the reason I fought so hard to get this out, is because part of my daughter’s advocacy is to spread awareness. Every year I explain to my child’s teachers what apraxia is and how it could affect them in the classroom. I have informed her of various types of support she may need due to her apraxia (language affects more areas of study than expected). My daughter was fortunate enough to be blessed with phenomenal speech therapists and teachers. Teachers and speech therapists who do everything to ensure that my daughter gets what she needs inside and outside the classroom. To make sure it is successful. They say it takes a village. I am very grateful to our village.
I hope that as awareness spreads, our journey will become a little easier every year. That might make the journey easier for the next child. That the next time parents are diagnosed with apraxia for their child, they won’t be overwhelmed by the unknown knowing that everything will be fine. That you are not alone on this journey.
I will continue to stand up for my daughter every day until the day she can stand up for herself.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech, please don’t wait. The sooner they get services, the better it will be for them.
• If your child is under 3 years old, Please contact the First Steps program in your area so that you can begin the referral process. This does NOT require a referral from a doctor.
• If your child is between 3 and 5 years oldPlease contact your local preschool or Head Start program.
You can find more information about Apraxia at https://www.apraxia-kids.org/.
Also check out the official Apraxia Kids Support Group here and fight for my voice: My life with verbal apraxia.
After all, May 14th is Apraxia Awareness Day and in support we ask everyone to wear blue on this day in honor of Apraxia Awareness.
Please share your pictures on social media to raise awareness in the community.
Dawn Bechtold lives in Northern Kentucky with her husband, daughter and two dogs and is a family lawyer with Head Start.
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