Congratulations to Krista who won a copy of this book!
Guest post by Leslie Lindsay, R.N., B.S.N.
I am thrilled to be a guest blogger on Activity Tailor! Here I will share with you some insights and tips on how you may give your child the gift of voice through some simple activities you can incorporate on a daily basis. Here goes!
Throughout human history, and long before, parents have been making sacrifices for their young. They tend to them, they groom them, they take care of their basic needs. And so when my then-2 ½ year old daughter, Kate was given the diagnosis of childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), I had little idea what that really meant, or how I could help. Aside from the fact that I would be schlepping my daughter to and from speech therapy, I was dumbfounded. I shrugged, rolled my lips into a tight line and accepted the challenge; I would give my daughter the gift of voice—even if I didn’t quite know how.
Of course, the pediatric speech-language pathologist (SLP) we worked with privately for the next few years, coupled with the special-education preschool Kate attended five days a week really helped her thrive, socially and academically. I wasn’t carrying the brunt of apraxia alone, yet at times it felt that way. It really does take a village to raise a child. Along the way, I learned some valuable lessons, insights, and therapy ideas that may also help you along your apraxia journey.
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind as your “golden rules” in working with your child with CAS:
- Have your child repeat, repeat, repeat! Movement repetitions build strong motor planning/programming/gestures. Can you say that again?
- Provide lots of opportunities throughout the day to get your child to talk or vocalize—about anything. Your child will begin to see that communication is indeed a fun part of life. What color is that dog? Is the cup big or small?
- Be goofy and funny. If you are relaxed and your kiddo is relaxed, words will come easier. Ask nonsensical questions to elicit a response, give silly options.
- Make talking and speech practice more about your lifestyle and less about “sit and speak” time. In this sense, you “work it in” to your routine.
- Team up with your SLP. Have her give you ideas for homework and report back to her. Let her know what your kid does well at home and see if it works as well in the clinic. Think of your SLP-parent-kid connection as a circle with no beginning and no end; make it appear as if you are driving a fancy automatic car—smooth and effortless, even if it’s really a jumpy 5-speed jeep.
- The more talking feels like work, the less willing your kid will be to do it.
- Imitation is huge, too. “Can you say what I say?” Try it. If imitation is too hard, try doing it in unison. Remember all of the chanting our grandparents did in school for memorization? Even singing the ABC song is a form of imitation in the form of chanting memorization.
- You are mom or dad first. You do not need to become your child’s speech-language pathologist. Kids are smart. They will know what you’re up to and won’t participate if you act too much like their SLP.
- Your goal is to complement your SLP’s efforts in your own home. Talk to your SLP about a reasonable amount of home practice. This will also depend on the age of your child. As one apraxia parent named Mike shared, “An SLP is like a personal trainer at the gym. You go, your trainer works with you for an hour and teaches you things to do on your own, but it’s up to you to do the rest.”
Once you have a good sense of these basics, it’s time to start incorporating moments in your daily routine which will help your child see that communication is indeed important and valuable. No worries, you don’t have to do anything fancy or special. Most of these ideas are free, or low-cost. Chances are, you already have a lot of toys, materials, and props at home that will spark your creativity. Remember, just about any toy or object can be used as a “therapy” tool.
- Have a family game night. Traditional favorites will do the trick. The speech payoffs here: turn-taking, counting, requesting, being a good sport, and other communication opportunities.
- Visit your public library. Let your child find some books of interest and then read them to her. Speech payoff: child-directed learning, introduction to new vocabulary, 1:1 time with you in which you are modeling pronunciation and articulation. You might even hear some sounds or word approximations from your child!
- Experience and connect with nature. Speech payoff: identify and describe what you see, hear, and smell. Think holistically—this is more than just a walk in the park.
- Exercise by biking or sledding, walking, or swinging. Speech payoff: vocalizations and words are often heard with movement. Exercise also increases self-confidence, which these kiddos need more than anything. Children with CAS often crave movement.
- Do some art. Speech payoff: Besides the 1:1 time all kids need, it also unleashes creative potential and gives you something to talk about: “What color should we make the tree?” Practice saying “tree” or “green” while you’re at it.
- Listen to music. Speech payoff: Kids need physical movement, and what better way to get them to move than with some rockin’ tunes? Encourage singing; even if they can’t get the lyrics out, they can hum along. Plus, music has a positive effect on mood—even yours!
- Bake cookies or cupcakes. Speech payoff: identify ingredients as you toss them into the bowl, have your child repeat the words (flour, sugar, butter, etc.) if she is able, talk about shapes as you roll out sugar cookies. Share your cookies with friends and neighbors and let your child do some of the talking—if possible—when the two of you deliver the goodies. It can be as simple as saying, “cookie” or “bake”–even an approximation will do.
And when it’s all said and done (yes, pun intended), you can sit back and be proud, not just of your child—but of your efforts as a parent as well. Who knew you had it in you?! Thanks for giving your child the gift of a lifetime; the gift of speech.
Leslie Lindsay is a former child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic. Her daughter, Kate is a bright and creative 1st grader resolving from childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). It is because of her that Leslie wrote the first book designed for parents on this complex neurologically-based motor speech disorder. Speaking of Apraxia: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech (Woodbine House, 2012) is as much as labor of love as it is a resource to help others along their apraxia journey. She lives in Chicagoland with her husband, two daughters, and a basset hound where she writes full-time. Follow her blog, www.leslie4kids.wordpress.com, “Practical Parenting with a Twist” in which she writes 5x/week on apraxia, education, parenting, and the writer’s life.
Now for a giveaway! Leslie is offering a copy of Speaking of Apraxia to a lucky reader. To enter, please submit your answer to the question below in “comments” by June 7, 2012 at midnight EST. You must have a mailing address within the US. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on June 8th. Good luck!
Kate, our cover-girl, is truly adorable! So, let us know, do you have freckles, red hair, neither or both? (I can’t enter, but I have freckles.)