My little boy is brave. I was reminded of that today and the fact that he is a little boy. He has carried a burden that I sometimes forget is his burden, not mine.
Recently Noah started school. Most kids just have to get ready for school and go. Before we even leave the house, Noah has done a 20-30 minute session with me doing ‘talking practice’. Apraxia of speech means we have to do daily practice, practising words and sounds over and over. We do try to make it fun and most of the time Noah gives it a good go. Of course, we do have our off days where he’d rather do anything but speech or spends more time with his bottom in the air than on the ground! But most of the time little Noah works well, persistently and patiently.
I picked Noah up from school to drive to his weekly speech appointment. It’s a one-hour drive and we discussed why trucks have two tyres on either side to balance the load and the impact of failed brakes or a flat tyre. We went early so that he could play in the park and enjoyed a game of cops and robbers.
Today Noah went in, eager to get a game out and chose one where you need to balance plastic penguins on a teetering iceberg without tipping it over. He was so keen to play it properly and frustrated by being redirected to do his speech words. After all, that’s why we go to speech therapy! Today it was minimal pairs – L vs Y words, lamb/yam, lot/yacht. Apraxia means it can be hard for Noah to move his tongue into the correct position to make certain sounds. The will is there, but the message just does not get from the brain to the muscles. Until he has practised the movement over and over, it doesn’t come naturally and requires a huge mental effort to make it happen, visual prompts and verbal encouragement. Today he was told,”Tongue up, tongue up.” Or my version,”Lick the lollipop behind your top teeth.” These are the prompts for the L sound.
After a whole session of repeating L and Y words, sometimes correctly, sometimes not and trying again, it became a bit much for my little guy. On the last word pair – lard and yard, his tongue just would not cooperate and he cried. It’s the first time I’ve seen Noah cry in a therapy session in the last three years. He also cried,”When do we get to finish the game?” He just wanted to play the penguin game. This was a stark reminder that here is a 5 year old boy who just wants to play. He has carried the burden of his apraxia for at least four years. Talking comes naturally to most kids. They don’t have to spend hours and hours and hours of their childhood doing speech drills and games and therapy. This little boy must work every day. We’ve had many victories and seen big improvements in his speech. We are incredibly grateful to the speech therapists who have helped Noah to get this far. Today I wanted to cry with my little boy, toss the speech work aside and play penguins.
So what will we do? We will encourage Noah. He has been doing so well. We will let him rest and play and run and laugh. Although we do therapy every week and speech practice daily, Noah has plenty of time to play as well. Tomorrow we will give it another go at home. We will keep it relaxed and make a game and a joke of it. We’ll call out,”Naughty tongue!” when his tongue won’t go up. We’ll practice licking lollipops behind our top teeth. By next week, that L sound will be in good shape. And this weekend, we will go play the penguin game. I’ve seen the same game at church and Noah can have the joy of toppling all those penguins off the iceberg without any flash cards in sight. We will laugh instead of cry.
PS. We tried again today (the day after this post was written) and Noah rocked it. A couple of slips of the tongue, but pretty accurate L and Y sounds, a positive attitude and no tears. We did our practice out in the garden for a change of scenery.