Approximately 2 children in 1,000 are affected by childhood apraxia in speech (CAS) and it affects more boys than girls. Children with CAS are at increased risk for language impairments and fine and gross motor impairments which can increase academic, social, and even vocational challenges.
Apraxia in Speech
And like many, they are finding Covid-19, social distancing, lockdown and the associated difficulties very hard indeed.
Dana Hall, author of Beyond Words, has come up with some top tips to help.
Apraxia in Speech during Covid-19 – how children are coping with communication
Covid-19 and lockdown is difficult for everyone. For children unable to go to school and see their friends, it’s hard. With palpable fear all around them, it’s a challenging experience that can be difficult to articulate and communicate. Children with communication disorders such as childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) can really struggle.
Dana Hall, author of Beyond Words: A Child’s Journey Through Apraxia has noticed how her seven year old son’s communication disorder has been exacerbated during the pandemic. She shares her wisdom and tips on how to address this and ease the burden.
School and remote learning
For a start, there’s the remote learning, which has challenges for all children. For children with apraxia they rely a lot on the non-verbal aspects of communication to express themselves and understand their peers and teacher, which is limited in remote learning settings.
Tools such as the ‘space holder’ which involves allowing time to think and speak, giving the child prepared questions and an understanding of what will be covered, and working in small groups that are more focused can really help.
Wearing a mask
Wearing a mask can also limit how easy a child finds it easy to communicate. As Dana says ‘I hve noticed my son is remarkably less intelligible with a mask on. Additionally, I noticed that when I wear a mask my son understands less of what I am saying and when I am helping him with a pronunciation, he struggles more to pick it up. I realized he is really looking at my mouth to understand what to do with his mouth, lips, tongue, and positions. To combat these two issues, we use masks with clear plastic inserts where the lips are visible.’
Social distancing and bubbles mean that socialising has taken on a whole new meaning for everyone. It’s important for us all to maintain relationships, but for those who rely on regular communication and stimulation to keep skills and stimulation levels up. Book clubs, virtual play dates and shared movie nights are a great way to do this.
Dana’s son attends speech virtually an his therapist has a lot of fun ways to interact with him. With apraxia repetition is key so going without therapy is not advised. Many children do not have the option of virtual therapy, which has resulted in regression, and highlights how normative social practices are so important in this context.
There are definite challenges for those with CAS in these difficult times. But there is hope. It is a time to think outside of the box and allow your creativity to guide you. Just because we are socially distancing does not mean we cannot find ways to connect, collaboration, and care for one another.