Childhood Apraxia of Speech: Seth's Story

Seth and his family moved from Columbus, OH, to Philadelphia when he was 3 years old. At the time, Seth was not speaking. 

seth Seth celebrates his 5th birthday. Although he seemed to understand his parents and brothers very well, he used only a few simple gestures to communicate.

“He wasn’t talking at all and barely made any sounds,” says his mom, Anne. “He would point to things. He would make gestures. I knew what he wanted because I’m his mom, but there was no communication.”

The family brought Seth to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he was evaluated by Sarah Vogel, MA, CCC/SLP, at CHOP’s Main Hospital in Philadelphia. Vogel diagnosed Seth with mildly delayed receptive language, severely delayed expressive language, delayed articulation skills and suspected childhood apraxia of speech.

Given Seth’s young age and delayed expressive language skills, it was difficult to fully determine a childhood apraxia of speech diagnosis.

Childhood apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder that occurs in approximately one to two children per thousand. Children with this disorder have difficulties sequencing and executing the motor movements necessary for speech production.

Childhood apraxia of speech ― confirmed

Seth began receiving weekly speech therapy at CHOP Specialty Care Center in Bucks County, PA, near his home.

He was subsequently diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech after clearly demonstrating several of the diagnostic markers, including various errors on repeated productions of words.

His parents worked closely with speech-language pathologist Marianne DeCicco, MS, CCC/SLP, to engage Seth in daily practice producing and combining speech sounds to form words and eventually sentences. Seth learned to use several gestures and signs to communicate with his family while he was working to increase his ability to use words.

“Marianne would give us things to work on at home so Seth wasn’t just doing therapy in his sessions, but continually,” says Anne. “As Marianne and Seth were working on certain sounds, she would send home flash cards of words we could go over on a daily basis.”

Making progress, gaining confidence

Recently, Seth celebrated his 5th birthday. He has made great progress over the past two years in speech therapy at CHOP. His vocabulary has expanded significantly, and he excitedly tells about his adventures with seven- to eight-word sentences.

He is in a typical kindergarten classroom and also goes to a speech-language enrichment class, which offers many opportunities for him to continue to improve his speech sound production so it’s easier for everyone to understand all the great stories he has to tell about sports, video games and rollercoasters.

“It’s incredible the progress he’s made and makes me very proud,” says his mom. “He says words and whole sentences. He’s able to tell me what he did at school today, and when he is excited, he’s able to explain why.”

“I’m just so happy that he’s gotten through the hardest part,” she adds. “When he couldn’t talk or communicate, he was very shy. But now that he can communicate better, he’s right in there singing and communicating like everyone else, so it’s really helped his self confidence.”

Originally posted: January 2014

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