Let’s talk about effort- for moms and kids- in the journey of communication development for kids with Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) or other motor planning disorders.
Effort can be defined by a quick google search as follows: (define effort - Google Search)
a vigorous or determined attempt.
a force exerted by a machine or in a process.
Think for a moment about pushing a sled. If the sled is empty, and you are pushing it downhill, it will move rather effortlessly- or automatically- so much that you can eventually just stand on the front of it as it glides. This makes it more likely for you to continue going and less work for those around you to assist.
This is typical speech-language development. It just happens, relatively naturally.
Now imagine pushing a sled that is a tad heavier. In order to get the sled moving, a little extra push is needed, or just a little extra time, or just an example of how. But once given these bits of help, the sled starts moving onward and you’re able to jump on it and continue moving forward without exerting much effort along the journey of communication development.
This is a late talker.
Now imagine the sled is filled to the brim with bags of sand and heavy boulders, rocks, and stones- and perhaps you are pushing this sled up hills and around curvy bends- and this sled keeps getting stuck in potholes- and sometimes stones and boulders fall out and need to be recollected.
This is Childhood Apraxia of Speech.
The EFFORT is different from that of a late talker and very different from a child developing speech typically. This child may attempt to say a word as seen by the way they posture their lips and look intently, but no voice comes out (potholes). This child may produce a sound or word once, but then is unable to say it again (dropping stones). This child may struggle to produce syllables, then struggle to sequence a few sounds to create a meaningful word, then struggle to produce two-syllable words, then struggle to produce short phrases- and so on with slow progress (uphill struggle).
As a speech therapist, I have started to look much more intently at the LEVEL OF EFFORT required for a child to attempt talking. Effort is important. When the level of effort required is recognized, we can see that a kiddo is not “lazy” for not talking. A kid doesn’t just “not like” grandma and grandpa because they do not greet them as expected. A child is not “weird” for not wanting to engage in conversations. Talking is hard.
This Mother’s Day, I wanted to extend a special shout-out to the Moms of our kids with motor planning difficulties. I see you right there with your kiddo, matching their efforts to keep them going. I see you pushing the sled up the hills and around the bends, picking up the lost rocks and becoming stronger every step of the way, together with your child. I see that the weight is on you, too.
Because of the support you give your child, the potholes will get smoothed over with repetition and forging on. The boulders and loose stones will become more secure the more they are picked up and put back in place. The uphill battle will level out. And you will eventually make it to a place where enough paths are paved and the hill tilts in your favor and things require less effort and begin to happen more automatically. Keep celebrating each smoothed-over pothole and resecured stone because just around the next bend there is a little more automaticity in sight.
Moms are awesome.
Peace and Love,
Christine Sumara M.A. CCC-SLP/L
HLC Therapy Group, LLC is a pediatric therapy provider offering speech, occupational, and physical therapy services in McHenry County and surrounding areas located in Lake in the Hills, IL.