Parenting & Motherhood

Speech Apraxia: Understanding my Son

May 11, 2017
we will make mistakes. We’re human, but it’s also human to amend mistakes and to seek forgiveness. Something I tell myself often is that I’m here to help cultivate my little ones’ personalities, not crush them. How can I best form what is already there?
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“Frozen” Complex – How Parenting Affects our Children’s Gifts

Frozen fever? I never really caught it. I saw the film once, and I remember good music and an innovative story line. However, when I was teaching middle school, the movie came up a lot when I discussed story elements with my classes. In one particular class, I had a picture of Elsa on my PowerPoint in order to explain how a character can be both protagonist and antagonist. Struck by inspiration, I asked them how did she become the antagonist when she is meant to be our protagonist? I mean, villains usually have motive and backstory—that’s why they intrigue us. There was a mixture of answers, but one student replied, “the parents.” This led our class discussion to how the parents dealt with Elsa’s gift. They thought, “this will be best for her and everyone else” and unintentionally cut her off from human contact (from love) by locking her up. Did I mention that this was sixth grade? Sometimes, those kids were really underestimated!

The Rollercoaster of Parenting

Now, as a parent, I almost playfully call this the Frozen complex. I am trying to do what’s best for my little ones—all out of love—and somehow, it backfires. That’s how I feel about the journey with my oldest and his speech apraxia. We have done speech therapy for years, tubes, flashcards, sign language, all amidst an emotional rollercoaster. On a more positive note, his speech has improved, and the situation could be a lot worse; however, I am always asking myself, “What could I have done better?”

Now, as a parent, I almost playfully call this the Frozen complex. I am trying to do what’s best for my little ones—all out of love—and somehow, it backfires. That’s how I feel about the journey with my oldest and his speech apraxia. We have done speech therapy for years, tubes, flashcards, sign language, all amidst an emotional rollercoaster. What is Speech Apraxia?

Speech apraxia is a motor speech disorder, where there is a problem saying sounds, syllables, and words because of a muscle weakness (jaw, tongue). The brain has problems moving those body parts. Especially when my son is overexcited or upset, his words come out as a repetition of a letter sound without the full word.

No matter what your little one may be struggling with, there are two things I want to reflect on in this post: what others say and the role of parents.

Dealing with what Others Say

My, oh my, have we had some blunt comments from other people! “He doesn’t talk yet? What’s wrong with him? Isn’t he old enough to be saying sentences?” I know it’s easier to say than do, but I’ve learned that the comments have to be ignored. Yes, some people do have bad timing and a poor choice of phrase, but don’t let it deteriorate your resolve! Nothing—absolutely nothing—can replace that joy I felt when my son was two and he took my wristwatch off my nightstand and said as clear as day, “clock!” His first word… I tear up now just thinking about it.

Our Role as Parents

Are there some things I could have done better? Yes! Absolutely! I am young, he is my first child, and I had little to no experience with babies growing up. Still, to this day, I lose my patience with him and become frustrated when he cannot explain something to me. For example, he comes home with a note on his behavior chart and I want details, “Sweetie, what happened? Why did you do that?” And the words don’t come; he stutters and it breaks my heart. My mantra? He’s a little body with big emotions—be the peace you want him to feel. Instead, I try to provide words for him to affirm or decline, “I think you wanted the trains and that’s why you hit your friend? Sweetie, we share toys and just because you want something that someone else has, that is no excuse to hit. You need to wait your turn.” Just focus on cultivating an environment filled with love and understanding, and if it backfires, take a step back and reevaluate your approach.we will make mistakes. We’re human, but it’s also human to amend mistakes and to seek forgiveness. Something I tell myself often is that I’m here to help cultivate my little ones’ personalities, not crush them.

No Matter what, we can always Seek Forgiveness and Try Again

Referring back to the “frozen complex,” yeah, sure, we will make mistakes. We’re human, but it’s also human to amend mistakes and to seek forgiveness. Something I tell myself often is that I’m here to help cultivate my little ones’ personalities, not crush them. How can I best form what is already there? My son may tackle apraxia in the years to come or he may struggle with it a lot longer than most kids do, but no matter what, I need him to know that I’m there. I’m there to try to understand, to love, to help, to listen.

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  1. I so appreciate this post! My daughter, now age 34, was diagnosed with speech Apraxia when she was two. It was a difficult period to go through. Because she had no speech whatsoever until she was four, she was initially diagnosed as “mentally handicapped.” To make a long story short, she ended up overcoming her speech disability and went on to become an accomplished pianist with two college degrees. But this comment of your struck me… “He’s a little body with big emotions—be the peace you want him to feel.” Yes! I remember the the overflow of big emotions that my little girl couldn’t express with words. It was heartbreaking. Your advice to “be the peace you want him to feel” is, thankfully, possible through Jesus.

    1. What a comfort to know that someone has been where we are–thank you so much for sharing and it truly helps me look forward to seeing my son blossom. And yes, with Him, all things are possible!

  2. As a training speech therapist, I can honestly say this post filled me with joy. The struggles you see and hear of from parents with children who have a speech disorder are truly heartbreaking. I’m so happy that you are able to love support and care for your Son. A verse that really strikes me and I wish I could tell everyone who walks through the practice is 1 Corinthians 1 vs 5: “For in Him we have been enriched in every way, with all kinds of speech and knowledge” All words – however formed or unformed can be used for His glory!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that verse–it’s so inspirational! The process was (and still is) a struggle, but God has already done so much for our family through the experience.

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