Apraxia Awareness 2016 – Roar of the Lion

Dear Noah,

You told me something today:“Some of the kids at prep say I talk like a baby.”

Words cut deep, bub.  I know.  Those words hurt you and they hurt me too.  But those kids just don’t understand that your voice is the sweetest, bravest voice in the world to me.  They don’t know what it has taken for you to be able to say those words to me.  They have never heard the word “apraxia” and can’t see the block that prevents your brain sending messages to your speech muscles.  Your classmates don’t know that you actually have to think through the sound sequencing of each word and the order your words come out and that this is why you speak a little slowly and your intonation is not quite right.

Painting

Noah loves Prep!

You see, buddy, words come easily to most kids.  They don’t have to think too hard to make it happen.  Because of that, they think it should be easy for everybody and don’t realise that it isn’t.  If they knew what it had taken for you to talk, they’d be cheering.  Matey, most of your work and effort takes place behind closed doors.  Only your family are privileged to see what it takes every day to give you a voice.  Only your speech therapist can see the numbers on paper that show the steady improvement in your ability to make and connect sounds.

Only you know the pain of having your words trapped inside your head and being unable to get them out.  Only you and me know the intensity of working for months on end for your first two syllable word and your first sentence – modelling and cueing each word individually over and over again until one day it popped out: “IWANCHEE!” (apraxia for “I want cheese.”)  Only you know the frustration of trying your best, only to have mummy say, “No, try again….No, listen carefully – ve-ge-ta-ble.”  I know the pain you feel when you are misunderstood on something that is important to you.  But, I also know the exhilaration you feel on saying a difficult word perfectly after heaps and heaps of practice.  I feel those things too, buddy.

You sit with me each morning for our talking practice.  You’re getting bigger now and we go for 30 minutes.  Every day, including weekends and holidays.  We have a target sound that we may work on for weeks or months.  Currently it is /j/ in the middle of words.  I model.  You repeat.  We say our new words five times each and cue the target sound with a hand signal.  We then put each word into a phrase or short sentence…and repeat it until that /j/ sound comes out just right.  We keep going until Sally, your speech therapist is happy that the sound has been assimilated into your speech securely without cueing.  We move on to play a game of “Guess Who?”  We practice asking “is” and “does” questions and logical reasoning.  We finish with some phonics, writing on a dry erase board or using letter blocks to make CVC words.  What a work out…and then it’s time to go to school.  Not only that, we weave speech into everyday life, getting you to repeat words or sentences that were not quite right.  As we read, we pick out target sounds and emphasise them in the stories.

You have built up muscles at age 6 that most kids will be working on for a long time yet – Perseverance, Tenacity, Fortitude, Determination, Strength.  The kids don’t yet see the wonderful work that God is doing in your life or the godly man that you will become – fruitful, brave, trustworthy and strong.  They think your sweet little voice is like that of a mouse.  What they don’t know is that it’s really the roar of a lion.

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Noah – Roar of the Lion

Apraxia Awareness Day is coming up soon.  Let’s find a way to help the kids understand what it takes for you to be able to speak.  We’re so proud of your voice because we know what it took to find it.

I love you so much.

Mummy xx

PS.  We visited Noah’s class to talk to the kids about Apraxia.  I made a photo book with a story about Noah and how Apraxia affects him.  We gave out cup cakes with blue icing because blue is the colour of apraxia awareness used by CASANA (Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America).  Here is Noah’s Apraxia Awareness Message for 2016.

Watch Noah’s Apraxia Awareness Message on youtube

 

Finding Noah’s Voice: Tears and Penguins

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.

Coolum 2015 173

Noah, age 5

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.

The Miracle of the Amazing Dust Particles

Noah: Mummy, Mummy!  Where are you Mummy?

Me: Here I am.

Noah: Come quickly.  See something AMAZING!

Me: What is it Noah?

Noah: The dust is swirling round and round!

Noah has noticed dust particles, highlighted by the sunlight streaming through a window.  The dust particles are moving in circles, caught on invisible currents of air, just like the eddies we see in the water of a stream.  I pause to watch and wonder – a beautiful moment, perhaps occurring everyday and long escaping my attention.  I pause to laugh – this boy!  This boy who could barely put two words together two years ago.  This boy who has struggled to speak.  This boy who proudly told everyone just 12 months ago, “Merry Tismas e-ry body!”  This boy who is expressing his thoughts and showing me the world he sees.

Coolum 2015 176

Noah, Coolum Beach 2015

This boy.  His name is Noah.  He is five years old.  He was born with severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech, a neurological condition that impacts on his brain’s ability to send messages to his speech muscles.  He has long struggled to communicate and has now completed three years of speech therapy.  We have celebrated new words, two word phrases, the first sentence, the first lie, the first whys, the first stuttered stories.  And now, Noah has moments where he speaks like the little boy in my dreams so long ago, the little boy who chattered without difficulty, clearly and easily telling me about his day.   The little boy who caused my heart to leap with joy, only to be crushingly disappointed when I awoke to the reality of a toddler who could only cry over his frustrated attempts to talk to me.

This boy.  Noah – you are amazing.  You persevere.  No one I know has worked as hard as you to speak.  You get better everyday.  You are finding sound combinations more easily.  We are moving into the territory of grammar.  You speak your sentences as best you can with the words you have.  Slowly we are working out the intricacies of language – how to phrase questions versus answers, personal pronouns, plurals and tense.  I correct you as we practice, “She is climbing.  She climbed.”  You try again and say, “These sounds are tricky.”  You are right.  I hug you.  You try so hard and we push you more.  You’ve been corrected more on your speech than any child of your acquaintance, but you take it so well.  You accept our efforts to help you speak more clearly.  And it makes we want to cry sometimes.

I want the journey to be over.  I want to say apraxia is behind us.  But it’s not.  You’ve gone from severe to moderate and I am elated.  I can’t wait to announce that you are mild, one day in the not so distant future.  Each step forward in communication reveals a new challenge…and another…and another.

Let’s not dwell on that for now.  After all, there are dust particles to admire.  There are Santas to talk to. There are stories to be told.  Stories of helicopters, pirates, Papua New Guinea boats, space ships, police and robbers and more.  There are songs to sing – the ones you make up so beautifully.  You praise God in your own sweet voice, making up words that express your love for him. God is good.  We’ve prayed and hoped for so long to see you come to this point of freely communicating and we have seen those prayers answered.

Miracles do happen.  Mostly these are not spontaneous healings where the touch of God is like a bolt of lightning.  Most miracles unfold slowly, like the petals of a beautiful rose.  These miracles are only revealed when we pause to reflect on a long journey, appreciating the touch of God that has helped us to persevere through times of seemingly little progress, looking back to see how far we have come and celebrating what has come to pass.  For nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

In just two months, Noah’s speech has greatly improved.  I couldn’t believe the difference in Noah’s speech in a video I took about 2 ½ months ago compared to one I took a couple of weeks ago.  Here he tells us about some of the Lego helicopters he has built up.  Below I repost the original video for comparison.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Noah – September 2015 (video 1)

Noah – November 2015 (video 2)

Me, Mum and the Scuba Diver

Dear Noah,

We are reaching a strange stage in our apraxia journey.  Progress is both poignant and a little painful.  You are expressing yourself much more and piecing together descriptions and explanations.  You are also starting to let go of some speech patterns that are so cute and make you seem younger than you are.  Our little boy is growing up.

Noah, age 5. Gone sailing!

Noah, age 5. Gone sailing!

For many months, you have said ‘me’ instead of ‘I’ and I have constantly reminded you to say ‘I’ instead of ‘me’.  “Me want biscuit.”  “Me going outside now.”  Now a few days have gone past and I realise I haven’t corrected you on it once.  ‘I’ is the new ‘me’.  No more,”Me love you, Mummy!”  In fact, I got,”I love you, Mum!”  I’m not sure I’m ready to be ‘Mum’ instead of ‘Mummy’.

Now I stop and marvel every time you explain something you are learning or thinking about.  You were watching a video about scuba divers with Daddy the other day and you were able to tell me all about it.

“Scuba diver has camera on his wetsuit.  Can take photos underwater.  Send to scientists…and police…and news people.”

This is new territory.  The grammar isn’t perfect.  Pronunciation of longer words is difficult.  Yet we can understand so much more.  I can still see you working and concentrating so hard on getting each word out when you’re talking about a more complex topic.  You have to concentrate on the word order and the motor planning of each word.  You think through words that need a consonant sound on the end and add it emphatically.  “The boa-t is in the water.”

It turns out you have been taking in a lot of information and storing it in your mind.  You distinguished that Mummy is a “hoo-man doctor” as opposed to an “animal doctor” when I came to talk to the kids at kindy.  You told me about breathing,”Need air.  Need o-y-gen [oxygen].”  You also gave me the low down on toilet hygiene,”Need to wash hands when I do a poo.  Poo has lots of germs.  Wee has not much germs.”  Good job!  I take a little professional pride in seeing you putting germ theory into action.  You hold way more vocabulary in your mind than you are able to say correctly.  Now that you can sequence many more sounds and syllables, you are giving these words a crack.  Sometimes we have a game of 20 Questions to work out what you mean because sound substitutions mean some words sound like other words eg ‘blue car’ versus ‘gui-tar’.  We have to beg for clues sometimes so we can get the context.  We often get berated with,”No! Not talking ‘bout …..  Talking ‘bout ……”  We just have to make a joke about our ears not working properly and work it out.

We are so proud of the progress you are making, Noah.  I can’t believe your first sentence was 18 months ago.  What a long way you’ve come!  I am happy to be hearing your voice, not the voice I used to dream about, but your voice.  I love your stories and joining in your imaginary games.

Love Mummy

PS. Below I have included a video of Noah telling me about the helicopter he is making.  I can understand most of what he says.  He talks about the rotors and how it makes the helicopter fly, how the scuba diver can go out the back door to swim in to the ocean for his mission and how the submarine can take photos and go down to look at a pirate ship that sunk long ago.   We realise Noah’s speech is difficult to understand if you are not used to hearing it.  We celebrate each little gain he makes.  Enjoy!

Noah with his finished lego helicopter

Noah with his finished lego helicopter

I’m all effed out. The c says ‘k’. The best speech appointment ever.

New term.  New goals.  New sounds.  Thank goodness.  As I told Miss Sally, your speech therapist, “I’m all effed out.”  Yep.  Been doing /f/ words for too long now and I’m sick of saying, ”Bite and blow.”  F-initial, f-middle and f-final.  Time to move on.

Miss Sally tells me we’re going to try /k/ because that will increase the intelligibility of your speech.  But it could take two years to master as it’s a tricky sound for kids with apraxia.  She pulls out a tongue depressor and pops it on the front of your tongue and asks you to say /k/.  After a few goes, you can do it!  In fact, you grab the tongue depressor and start pressing down on your tongue with it while repeating /k/, /k/, /k/.  You’re like a gym junkie pressing weights.  Miss Sally then gives you a few words with the /k/ sound on the end.  The tongue depressor gets popped into your mouth at the end of the word to elicit that elusive /k/.  And you do it well.  You are very happy when you are given your very own tongue depressor to take home to practice with.  Within a couple of weeks, we don’t even need the tongue depressor anymore!

Noah enjoying a sail on grandad's boat

Noah enjoying a sail on granddad’s boat

Miss Sally also decides to try some /s/ blends.  Usually your /s/ gets dropped at the start of words with an /s/ blend, so ‘snake’ becomes ‘nake’.  Up to this point you have never been able to produce blends.  Yet with the help of a picture of a snake to remind you to say /s/ followed by another picture, you are soon saying a few words with /s/ blends – spot, spoon, snow, sneeze, sneak.

I leave feeling real proud and elated.  You, my little superstar have reached two speech goals in one session – a difficult throat sound and your first blends.  I want to tell everyone, but know they will think I’m crazy to be so excited over these little steps in your speech development.

I think Childhood Apraxia of Speech is like a puzzle.  Each piece of the puzzle is a different speech sound.  At the start, we only had a handful of pieces.  We’ve had to find and add in more pieces along the way, gradually building up your repertoire of sounds.  Each piece may need to be worked on and fine-tuned for weeks or months before it fits securely into the puzzle, only to pop out again at obscure times.  Then we have to link each sound to the others, creating all the sound connections needed – /m/ is not learnt in isolation.  We also have to practice /ma/, /me/, /mo/, /moo/.  Initial, middle and final sounds must all be mastered in simple CVC words.  Two and three syllable words are practiced slowly to get the right sound transitions and later to get the right emphasis.  All the puzzle pieces are intricately connected in an even more complex way than those 3D puzzles.

Mummy and Noah

Mummy and Noah

The intricacy of speech.  I think it’s amazing.  I never realised how complex the movements are that our mouths, tongues and lips do to produce speech until I had you, Noah.  It’s a wonder any of us ever learn to talk without intense help.  We’re so unaware of the complexity of speech when it comes easily to us.  But you’ve had to learn the intricacy of the movements from scratch.  At the start, you had vowels and /m/ and a lot of /d/ – so many words were “da”.  Whilst the puzzle is not complete yet, we’re adding more pieces and making more connections with the guidance of your speech therapist and the hard yakka of daily practice.  In years to come, you may not even remember the struggle or the hours of practice.  You’ll simply have the completed puzzle, perhaps with a few missing pieces and the ability to produce speech as effortlessly as most people.  I will smile and remember the work that went into putting that puzzle together and the special bond we’ve had because of it.  Together we’ve learnt a language that goes beyond love.

Through the Kindy Gates – Apraxia Awareness 2015

Dear Noah,

I arrive at your kindy, midway through a Wednesday to pick you up for your weekly speech therapy appointment.  As I go to ring the doorbell I have a glimpse of the children playing in the garden through the metal railings.  I hear uproarious giggling.  I see a flash of green shirt darting under the fort to hide.  It’s a game of chasey.  And it’s you, Noah.  Playing with other children and laughing.

A year ago you would be quietly playing by yourself in the dirt pit.  Digging, building, always gripping the toy tool box as if your life depended on it.  Today, I’m told you agreed to share the tool box.  You no longer cart if everywhere with you during play time as a security blanket in a world where you cannot verbally communicate.  That’s no longer your world.

Your world is opening up.  Words are coming thick and fast.  You’re mastering sentences and sounds.  You’re gaining confidence and talking with other children, not just the teachers.  And you’re showing us so many things you have learnt.

Noah and his Training Buddies

Noah and his Training Buddies

Another day you are out on the verandah making play dough.  Your teacher is showing everyone the recipe.  I’m about to leave and hear her ask, “Does anyone know what number this is?”  I hear a little voice pipe up, “Four!”  It’s so clear.  There’s an /f/ sound at the start – a sound we worked on for weeks this year and weeks last year.  I pop out to see who answered as I wasn’t sure it was you.  Your teacher smiles and says you picked out the number four.  It was you.

You are no longer that two year old boy, crying, frustrated and unable to make your mouth cooperate with what you wanted to say.  You’ve worked hard to develop sounds, syllables, words and phrases.  You’ve put up with Mummy drilling you again and again.  “Say it again.  Bite and blow.  No, bite and blow. F-f-four.”  You’ve tolerated my hands on your face, showing you how to position your lips, teeth and tongue to produce different sounds.  You’ve followed and copied hand signals that cue target sounds.  We’ve worked our way through 5 scrap books of speech activities provided by your speech therapists…and you still ask for the ‘tool one’ which was one of the first!  I know you get tired of it sometimes, yet most of the time you suck it up, give it another go and cooperate to get better at something that is so difficult for you – talking.

We hear you, Noah.  At age 5, you amaze us every day.  Tenacity.  Perseverance.  Creativity.  Focus.  Cuteness.  You’ve got this and more.  We know we still face a lot of challenges and much more speech therapy to get those missing sounds, tricky sound transitions and clear multisyllabic words.  As a wise person said, “Apraxia is a marathon, not a sprint.”  I’m happy to be your training buddy.  We all are.

Love you lots,

Mummy

PS.  Noah’s video message for Apraxia Awareness Day May 2015 – this is the first year Noah has had enough speech to attempt a video.  He said his first sentence on Feb 14, 2014.  This was done May 12, 2015

Finding Noah’s Voice: The Carpenter

Jesus was a carpenter.  Before he began his ministry, this was his trade, taught to him by his earthly father.  Noah was amazed to hear that Jesus was a carpenter.  When I first told him this he looked excited and said,”Really?” Noah is five years old and loves tools.  He always has, ever since he could pick them up.  Early presents of toy tool boxes and a tool bench have been his favourite toys.  He takes every opportunity to siphon off tools from Daddy’s toolbox to add to his own collection and is often found undoing screws with a real screw driver.  Bunnings is his favourite shop and he is always asking for another toolbox – the bigger the better.  When he grows up, he wants to be a ‘tool-man’. Recently, Grandad got a new shed.  Noah is very impressed with his new structure.  This Grandad has never really been a big handy man; more a potterer.  However, in retirement he has realised a dream – a man cave, a place to play with tools.  Noah has already been over to help construct his very own mini tool bench out of scrap wood, old nails and finished with a coat of white paint.  He couldn’t be happier with the result.  As long as he can swing a hammer, line up a ruler and draw a line or screw something together, he is happy.

Noah at work in Grandad's shed

Noah at work in Grandad’s shed

We appreciate the ability our little chap has with his hands, a wonderful strength when contrasted with his speech difficulties.  He is still working his way through the challenge of developing clear speech and working out the rules of expressive language.  Noah was born with Childhood Apraxia of Speech which means that his brain has trouble planning the precise movements that are needed for speech.

Over the last three years Noah has been a work in progress as we gradually accumulate the tools and skills needed to help unlock his voice and ability to communicate. This is a complex process because this is a severe speech disorder that affects the ability to produce every sound and every sound combination.  Each sound has to be separately learnt and practised – in isolation, then in combination with other sounds, moving onto words, short phrases and finally sentences.  A sound that is mastered on its own may be lost when Noah tries to say it in a word or a sentence.  We painstakingly practice each word and then through hand signals and touch cues help him to say it in a phrase or sentence, gradually removing the cues until he can say it on his own.  Noah has gradually added more sounds to his repertoire, but is still missing some key sounds.  These get substituted which makes it difficult to decipher what he is saying at times, especially with longer words or sentences.  This can lead to frustration because Noah has so much he wants to ask and say now.  Even though I understand him better than anyone, I still get stumped.  But Noah is resourceful and can find other ways to get his point across.

For example, yesterday we had this conversation.

Noah: Show me pi-ture of tar-tle?

Mummy: Turtle?

Noah: No!  Tar-sle.

Mummy: Dark Stool?!!

Noah: runs to get a piece of paper and draws picture of castle.

Mummy: Oh – castle!

Noah: Yes, with tur-et!

We then googled pictures of castles and discussed turrets, battlements, moats, royalty and knights.  He has been fascinated by castles lately.  Today we built one in the sandpit using broken bricks for turrets.  I got to be the princess! Noah and I have to be patient with one another as we continue to work on his speech.  I have to listen and reflect back what I hear and help him correct his articulation.  Noah has to try again and again to communicate if I don’t get it the first time, or second or third time. The work for Noah is not yet done.  The final piece will be amazing, no doubt.  He is learning to speak his mind.  We are learning to listen and rejoice because he is talking, imperfectly but beautifully.  Beautifully because we waited so long to hear his little voice.  He will grow up to work with his hands and take his place in this world.  So I finish with a prayer Noah recently offered up, simple but beautiful.

“Dear Dod (God),

Help me make things when I grow up.

Help me be dood (good).

Amen.”

Noah is in the hands of the ultimate carpenter who is able to do a work in each of us more amazing than a physical healing because His work lasts for eternity.

Finding Noah’s Voice – The Christmas Gift

We started the year with one question: Would this be the year that you would talk?  Really talk.  200 words.  That’s what you started the year with.  I know.  I made the list and counted them.   Some of them were even being put into two word phrases.

I dreamed a dream.  You spoke.  Not just a word or two, but sentences.  Flowing sentences.  In my dream I heard your voice and I was happy.  Until I awoke and realised it was just a dream.  I was yet to truly hear your voice.

Well, somewhere in the course of the year, the miracle happened.  You started to speak.  Who could forget the first sentence:  IWANCHEE.  I want cheese.  This followed months of practising the phrase,”I want …” with each word being individually prompted.

We prayed and this is the verse God spoke to me:

1 Chronicles 28:20

Be strong and courageous and DO THE WORK.  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God is with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.

We buckled down.  We’ve done the work each day – repeating sounds, words, phrases again and again.  And work turned into magic.  You started to talk, putting together phrases and sentences to tell us what you needed, what you wanted and then simply to tell us what you thought.  We’ve been discovering you.

We now know your favourite colour.  We know when you’re unhappy with your brother and why.  I know that you love me – you said it.  I know what you do when I’m not with you, because you can tell me.  We even know that you want a jackhammer for Christmas!

What a year, beautiful boy.  You’ve done it.  You found your voice.  Now we hear you.  What a wonderful Christmas gift and blessing and we thank God for that over and over.  And so, from all of us and especially from Noah, unprompted and with his own voice: “Merry Christmas everybody!”

 

Finding Noah’s Voice: “This my kindy friend.”

Dear Noah,

Little guy, you’ve almost completed your first year of kindergarten.  You began the year with maybe 200 words and approximations of words and were just beginning to put two words together.  We sent you off into that little adventure land of bricks and play dough, painting and stories, animals and climbing frames, dirt pits and sand pits a little uncertain as to how you would cope.  At the end of each day I would ask,”What did you do today?”  And you would say,”Play.”  That was it.  One little word to sum up an entire day, unlike the avalanche of words I would get from your big brother!

I relied on your teacher and teacher aide to give me a little insight into what you were doing and learning.  You were quite happy to explore the kindy environment, always busy, always keen to learn things.  But I would watch you playing by yourself.  You would play beside other kids, but not with them.  I wondered if the breakthrough would ever happen – seeing you join in.  When I picked you up, the other kids would usually be in a group interacting with the teacher and you would be doing something quietly by yourself, quite content in your own little world.  You’ve always been happy to explore things on your own, focussed enough to find enjoyment in it, curious enough that your little mind is occupied without the need for constant companionship.

First day of kindy, Noah all ready to go.

First day of kindy, Noah all ready to go.

Yet I hoped you would find a friend.

On one of my roster days, I met Will, a tiny friendly boy who took an interest in you and would play where ever you went.  Your favourite part of the playground is the dirt pit.  It’s got a shed with toy tools and builder’s helmets.  You love tools and you dominated the tools, even before you had the words to do it.  I heard that when the tools came out and other kids wanted some, you would sort them out – these are MINE and these are YOURS.  Apparently another mum took the tools one day, before being informed,”Don’t touch the tools!”  by an anxious teacher aide.  You’ve trained ‘em well.

The tool hat

The tool hat. Crazy hair day.

Anyway, Will joined us this day.  You were busily building a road.  Will played nearby and kept calling out,”Noah, come help do this!” and trying to get your attention and involvement.  He asked me why you didn’t talk and I explained that you were still learning but were getting better.  I’ve noticed Will greeting you and saying goodbye at the start and end of the day.  I even told his mum how special this was.

As the year has progressed, you’ve gained so many words and have been learning the art of putting sentences together.  They’re not perfect, but we are getting so much more insight into what you think and do.  I’ve seen you making eye contact with other children, speaking to them and even joining in with them – tea parties with the girls, building blocks with the boys.  Your language is still limited and makes social interaction difficult, but you are trying hard to engage with your kindy buddies.  When you couldn’t explain what you wanted to build to the boys, you ran to the craft table and drew a picture to show them.  What a creative and smart way to communicate!

The cutest little jailbird.  Dress ups!

The cutest little jailbird. Dress ups!

Today Will joined you at the activity table where you were hammering wooden pieces into a cork board and you told me,”This my kindy friend.”  It is wonderful that you have a friend.  Will has persevered in being a friend, even when you didn’t quite understand what it was to be a friend.  You are reaching out to other kids confidently, even when they knock you back a bit because of your speech.  You have an enjoyment of all that you do and see the humour in so many things – stories and jokes and games.  You have an infectious giggle that gets the other kids laughing too and joining in with your imaginative games.  And you have a friend who is not one of the teachers!

And we get to do it all again next year.  Kindy has been so much fun, you’re coming back for more.  This time you’ll be able to tell me about your day and you’ll be interacting with the other kids from the very beginning in preparation for that next big first day – SCHOOL!

So this year, you’ve found two very important things – your voice and a friend.

Love you lots,

Mummy

Finding Noah’s Voice – The Carburettor

A carburettor is a device used to combine air and fuel in an internal combustion engine.  They are also an excellent device for helping mechanically inclined four year old boys to develop their speech.  I discovered this fact during Noah’s speech therapy session today.

You may be wondering how attaching such a device to a four year old boy could possibly generate more articulate and fluent speech.  I don’t know either!  Maybe it could work, but we haven’t tried that yet.  But, when Noah is allowed to take it apart, it is an excellent motivational tool.

So much fun.  Let's take apart that carburettor.

So much fun. Let’s take apart that carburettor.

This year I took Noah along to a new speech therapist who specialises in apraxia of speech.  I was impressed with this young man from the beginning as he is highly knowledgeable in the area of apraxia and has the ability to engage, motivate and keep kids interested in their therapy while thinking it’s a huge game.

When we make the trip to Brisbane every week, Noah must pack some essential items for the road.  Number one is his tool box.  Now, this isn’t the ordinary assortment of plastic toy tools that the average young boy plays with.  Noah loves real tools.  He has claimed most of my husband’s screw drivers, spanners and wrenches, has a real tape measure and an assortment of nuts, bolts and screws he has collected.  Some people may think this is a safety issue.  We let him because the little guy actually has an aptitude for working with tools and intuitively knows how to use them and is generally safe with them.  Note, he does not have access to a real saw, pliers or cutting implements.  The toy tools also come along.

Noah’s speech therapist, being a guy, also does a bit of work on cars with his dad and now keeps his socket set in his rooms so Noah can play with them during a speech session.  Back to the carburettor.  How do you incorporate this into a speech lesson?  Well, it looks cool and immediately interests a little grease monkey in the making.  You then tell the little grease monkey that he gets to take it apart.  There’s a catch.  He must complete each word set before he gets the Holy Grail – the appropriate tool to remove each nut, bolt or screw.  And so we work our way through “wash car”, emphasis on the /sh/ sound and “bus go”, emphasis on /s/.  We also practice saying ‘open’ and ‘I want screw driver please’ and ‘turn bolt’.  By the end of the session, both Noah and the speech therapist have hands covered in grease.  Both are happy and Noah doesn’t even realise he’s been getting ‘therapy’.

Noah: "I've said the word, now hand me the screwdriver!"

Noah: “I’ve said the word, now hand me the screwdriver!”

So one day Noah will be able to speak…and take apart any car component.  He has also gotten to disassemble a headlight and an old battery operated game.  At home, he has taken apart his toy tool bench, removed the planks from our fort and taken apart a saucepan lid with no fewer than 5 components needed to get it back together!  Oh yes – the ultimate feat:  We got Noah to say car-bu-et-a.  Four syllable word.  High Five!