Many preschoolers have slight speech delays — trouble with saying the letter “r” for example or pronouncing the “th” sound.
Children with apraxia of speech are different. For them, there’s a miscue when the brain tells the muscles to string together syllables and words to make a sentence.
“It’s sometimes thought that they don’t have anything interesting to say or they’re not smart,” said Wendy Brooks, whose son has apraxia of speech. “They know exactly what they want to say their mouths just aren’t cooperating with them.”
Yet, children with the disorder, typically, have no weakness or problems with their muscles.
A new program at the Luma Center in Chester County now offers help for the somewhat rare, often-overlooked speech disorder.
Brooks’ 15-year-old son, Zack, struggles to be understood.
“Take the word ‘street.’ He’s thinking about how to make the ‘s’ sound, the ‘t’ sound, the ‘r’ sound, and pull them all together, then do the long ‘e’ sound and put a ‘t’ at the end,” said Brooks, a resident of Devon, Pa.
“These children have to do that, they have to think about where they are putting their lips and their tongue and how to make the movements for speech,” said Jolynn Thomas, a Luma Center speech language pathologist in Malvern, Pa.
Thomas says early diagnosis, and years of training, can help children become more spontaneous, fluent speakers.
“It’s almost like playing the piano or learning a dance move, you need the drill and practice of having those muscles automatically know what to do,” Thomas said.
She leads an early development program that gives kids intensive training with other children five days a week.
There is a wide spectrum of severity among children with apraxia of speech.
Area families are gathering Sunday for a walk to raise awareness for children with apraxia of speech.
The Philadelphia Area Walk for Apraxia and Family Fun Day will take place at the Valley Forge Educational Services Campus, 1777 North Valley Road, in Malvern. Registration begins at 8 a.m.