Speech-Based Activities to Do with Your Kids with Apraxia at Home and in the Community
A lot of parents ask, “How can I help my child with apraxia?” In fact, it may very well be the number one question I get after “What is apraxia, anyway?” First things first, childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), is a neurologically-based motor speech disorder in which children know what they want to say, yet they have a difficult time coordinating their thoughts with the complex movements related to speech. It is a serious childhood speech disorder best remediated by frequent and intense speech therapy conducted by a trained speech-language pathologist (SLP). CAS can occur alone or with other learning disabilities, Down syndrome, or autism to name a few.
But you just want to know what you can do at home to help your child?
There 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.
- Be goofy and funny. If you are relaxed and your child is relaxed, words will come easier.
- Make talking and speech practice more about your lifestyle and less about “sit and speak” time.
- Team up with your SLP. Have her give you ideas for homework and report back to her. Let her know what your kiddo does well at home and see if it works as well in the clinic.
- The more talking feels like work, the less willing your child 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.
And now for some nitty-gritty ideas:
- 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, one-on-one 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 kids need more than anything. Children with CAS often crave movement.
- Do some art. Speech payoff: Besides the one-on-one time all kids need, it also unleashes creative potential and gives you something to talk about: “What color should we make the banana?” Practice saying “banana” or “yellow” 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.
Good luck and have fun! If you have any questions about these ideas, or are just looking for more to add to your apraxia toolkit, please talk with your child’s SLP.