May 31 marked the start of a new journey for our family. It remains a journey toward hope, but it is a new hope. A hope we never imagined we would have to journey towards. A hope that Nathan will one day be able to speak. For nearly a year we've known that Nathan's speech was delayed but we and our doctor assumed that he was just a late bloomer. A child smart enough to find other ways to communicate and a child that just didn't feel speech was necessary to get his point across. So we watched, we encouraged, and we waited for him to make his move into spoken language. That move never came.
Back in November we took him to a Speech Therapist to be evaluated. We discovered then just what we anticipated. He was a very smart boy that understood far more than he communicated. His hearing was tested and proved to be perfectly normal. So we were sent on our way with tools to help jump start his journey into spoken language (basic sign language to help him express his needs and activities to help him explore more sounds). This past Thursday, May 31, we went back in to the Speech Therapist to be reevaluated since despite small gains in his sound production and use of sign language, Nathan has remained non verbal. This evaluation and discussion has led us to a diagnosis. Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). This diagnosis means we are no longer merely waiting for Nathan to speak. We are now on a journey toward speech. CAS is explained by the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America as:
"a motor speech disorder. For reasons not yet fully understood, children with apraxia of speech have great difficulty planning and producing the precise, highly refined and specific series of movements of the tongue, lips, jaw and palate that are necessary for intelligible speech. Apraxia of speech is sometimes called verbal apraxia, developmental apraxia of speech, or verbal dyspraxia. No matter what name is used, the most important concept is the root word "praxis." Praxis means planned movement. To some degree or another, a child with the diagnosis of apraxia of speech has difficulty programming and planning speech movements."
So what does all that mean? From what we understand so far, helping Nathan learn to speak is going to be a rather intensive and potentially long process. Best case scenario is he will learn to speak with no real long term issues. Worse case scenario is that he never learns to speak and we find an alternate means of communication for him. We do not anticipate the worst case scenario for Nathan. We will have a better idea of what to expect once we begin our speech therapy sessions.
Your prayers for this journey are greatly appreciated. In the big scheme of things this is a small issue. We are blessed that Nathan is a healthy, active, intelligent, kind, fun and tender hearted little boy with an incredible future ahead of him. We love him dearly and are prepared to walk beside him on this new journey no matter where it takes us.