Update on Apraxia…insights from CASANA

Please welcome Katie Burch, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, as a guest writer today. Katie is a speech therapist who joined our Kid’s Creek family at the end of June. Working with children who have apraxia is one of Katie’s passions. We were so glad she was able to attend the CASANA conference this year and appreciate her sharing her insights and experiences.

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Wow! I have to say I was quite impressed with my first experience of CASANA’s 10th Annual National Conference on Childhood Apraxia of Speech in Nashville, TN recently. What a delightful mix of parent- and professional-friendly sessions! All aspects of the conference were timely and organized, and the organizers/presenters exemplified heartfelt service with a desire to pursue and share practical knowledge.

An unexpected bonus for me was getting to know some of the parents of children diagnosed with CAS. Talk about some super cool people!! What a joy to see how dedicated many parents are to the development of their children’s speech and language skills!

Multi-Sensory Cueing

I was reminded that multi-sensory cueing is a super beneficial tool for eliciting correct speech production in children with CAS. Margaret A. Fish, MS, CCC-SLP reviewed a wonderful variety of auditory, visual, tactile, and cognitive cues with helpful video examples. I can’t wait to read her book, Here’s How to Treat Childhood Apraxia of Speech! I have certainly seen the positive impact cueing can have on the progress of speech and language development and appreciated Margaret’s perspective.

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Reading Instruction

Specific considerations and modifications for reading instruction were clearly presented by Sue Caspari, MA, CCC-SLP, calling my attention to the grave need for incorporating reading into my therapy sessions. A resource she cited which I deemed worth exploring further was the “Accessible Literacy Learning (ALL) Reading Program.”

Ellen Brigger, MEd, Lead Teacher for the Apraxia Academic Program at St. Rita School for the Deaf, added to the topic of literacy emphasizing (among other things) the breakdown children with CAS experience when interpreting speech input (e.g., recognizing and differentiating sounds, storing words). In other words, CAS not only affects speech production but speech perception as well.

Useful resources with which she has found success included Orton-Gillingham drills, Sound Signs (which contain ASL signs), and Nanci Bell’s Visualizing and Verbalizing.

The importance of assessing/addressing a child’s speech perception skills as a component of speech-language therapy was further highlighted by Jennifer C. Dalton, CCC-SLP.

The SLP and Child Relationship

I personally enjoyed Leigh Mazaleski’s, MS, CCC-SLP spin on speech-language therapy focusing largely on the relationship between a child and his/her therapist. She addressed being in tune with a child’s emotions and helping him/her express them, using a variety of household items/activities to engage the child, and promoting humor within child and parent interactions.

Further, I loved Leigh’s recommendation for each therapy session to include targeted practice along with instructional play. Something else that stuck out to me was the idea that a therapist can be trained in multiple programs, but if she/he does not connect with your child, the benefit of therapy could be less than maximal.

Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol and K&K Sign to Talk kits/apps

What a treat to hear from Nancy Kaufman, MA, CCC-SLP and her colleague, Kerry Peterson, MA, CCC-SLP, BCBA! These ladies shared ideas regarding bridging sign language to vocal skills using principles of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). The K-SLP (Kaufman Speech Language Protocol) and K&K Sign to Talk kits/apps were referenced and are widely used by many speech-language pathologists.

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I have frequently used the K-SLP cards and am strongly considering ordering the Sign to Talk kits/apps after encountering them at the materials exhibit. I found it amazingly insightful that these ladies mentioned creating a signing community (e.g., via use of videos) to enable a child learning sign language (even as a temporary communication system) to communicate with a variety of partners in numerous settings.

Additionally, as many children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (and coexisting CAS) receive both speech-language therapy and ABA therapy, collaboration between these therapists can have a huge positive impact on a child’s progress.

CAS Research and Treatment

Megan Overby, PhD, CCC-SLP delivered guidelines for assessing and treating toddlers with CAS from a research viewpoint. In particular, she discussed differences in speech and language development between typical children and children with CAS. Comparisons were made in the areas of volubility (or the amount of vocalizations toddlers exhibit), consonant inventory, age of onset for babbling, use of voiceless sounds, and syllable shape.

Principles for treatment included focusing on babbling, establishing multiple consonants and vowels as building blocks for words, providing repeated modeling of developmentally appropriate vocalizations, and increasing frequency of complex syllable shapes (e.g., CVC, CVCV, VCVC).

The CAS Teen Panel

The conference was creatively and appropriately concluded through a question/answer session with a panel of teens who had previously been diagnosed with CAS. How delightful and heart-warming! These gals and guys expressed that their motivation to learn to communicate was high even at a young age.

They encouraged parents to complete any homework given to them by their speech-language therapist, cheer on their kids, never give up, and stay connected with other parents and professionals. Their advice to kids included learning to self-advocate, not being afraid to be themselves, and making friends who accept them as they are.

It was eye-opening to learn that studying foreign languages proved to be especially difficult, their speech often breaks down when they are tired (or consuming alcohol), and they sometimes tended to gravitate toward activities/sports that require minimal verbal communication. Increasing self-awareness of CAS and learning to be proactive in regard to academic/social modifications appeared to be of utmost importance.

Personal and Professional “Take-Aways”

My primary personal and professional “take-aways” from CASANA’s 10th Annual National Conference on Childhood Apraxia of Speech are as follows:

  1. I am more interested than ever in pursuing training in “The Speech-EZ Apraxia Program” developed by Lynn Carahaly (as many of the principles/topics addressed during the conference are encompassed in her program).
  2. I am passionate about and truly enjoy providing parents with helpful, practical resources and ideas to use at home for improving their children’s speech and language development.
  3. I have a heart for teens and would like to find a volunteer/ministry opportunity to serve/interact with them.
  4. Learning from other professionals leads to professional improvement and personal enjoyment.

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Thank you again Katie for sharing the highlights from the conference! And a big thank you to CASANA for offering such an awesome learning experience for parents and SLPs.

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