This one is for my son. My second born. My kind and gentle child. My apraxia warrior.
From birth, he’s been my snuggler. The one whose favorite place in the whole world was anywhere near me. The happy baby, joyful toddler, and forever smiling child.
The one who’d hide behind me when strangers approached. The one who doesn’t take risks and doesn’t want to try something new easily. The one who won’t make eye contact easily. Perceived by others as shy. But here’s the thing . . . he’s not shy, he’s a warrior!
What you and I take for granted daily, he struggles with. Something as simple as speaking is a conquest each time he has something he’d like to say. He’s been judged by total strangers for the way he speaks. Random strangers would walk up to us in shops and start asking their adult questions, “No school today?” He’d hide behind me, and I’d respond back, “We homeschool.”
They’d again turn their attention to this little boy, this time scooting down, and their vomit of questions would start. Questions asking what grade he’s in, what subjects he does, pop quizzes about the most random stuff. I’ve never seen anyone start quizzing a public school student or a private school student. Yet homeschooling kids constantly get this—as if they need to somehow prove themselves to society.
My little apraxia warrior would gain the courage to respond to the invasion and answer. He would carefully think about his reply, and he would even more carefully attempt to formulate his answers.
And the stranger would, time and time again, turn to me with a face of shock and ask, “What’s wrong with him? His speech is so unclear! He needs to be in school so he can pick up proper speech and pronunciation from the other kids!”
And I’d fight back my own anger and frustration, so as to calmly explain, and perhaps educate this stranger, about CAS: Childhood Apraxia of Speech. It’s not something that goes away by being around screaming children. It is something he gets speech therapy for—weekly, excruciatingly difficult, exercise after exercise until his jaw and tongue hurt, speech therapy.
And each little pronunciation, every letter sound conquered, is a victory. But it doesn’t stop there. Those sounds, those blends, they will always remain a fight to produce. But he’s fighting. Every apraxia child out there is fighting! And with his amazing speech therapist, he has journeyed through so many victories. He has conquered enough that he is now understood even by strangers.
Except, he no longer wishes to be understood by strangers. Those strangers from the beginning of his speech journey, have taught him a painful lesson. A lesson that breaks my momma heart: people judge. And he’s decided to protect himself by withdrawing into his shell as much as he can. As his mom, I’m working daily on nurturing his confidence again. And thankfully, he’s slowly resurfacing. Ever so slowly, his kind and gentle soul is once again becoming accessible to people who aren’t immediate family. He’s regaining confidence, one step at a time.
His apraxia does not just affect his speech. It’s so much more than that, all under the surface, invisible to the people who don’t know him.
Motor skills that come easy for you and me, like tying a shoelace and balancing a bike or learning how to swim and running with confidence—these seemingly simple tasks are conquests for a child with apraxia. They need more time to master them. The tasks will need to be broken down into smaller tasks, then put together as a process.
They are extra sensitive to your moods and pick up your judgment extra fast. And you’ll never know just by looking at them, but believe me when I tell you that these beautiful, strong children are warriors, fighting daily battles.
So the next time you see a child anywhere, please just be kind. They are not mini-adults. You don’t know their battles. You don’t know how much your little interaction with them will impact them. Please, just be kind.