Tag Archives: teachable moments

Apraxia – Is there a Time to Drill and a Time to Not Drill?

Noah has been back riding the horses at Red Arena for a couple months now.  I’ve been blown away by his instructor,  Miss Emily.  She adores my little guy and although she is not a SLP, she has worked with him extensively on his speech and is getting great results.

A few weeks ago she told me about all these words he was saying and how he was putting phrases together on his own.

Seriously?

She said he had said words like throw, rock, water, snake.

Again, seriously?

I prompted him to say “water” right there in front of her, and Noah grunted as usual.

“No, no,” she said, “He really said it.”

“Okay, whatever you say,” I thought.  (I didn’t say it outloud, did I?)

So last week at Noah’s session, Miss Emily produced a video.  Proof.  The little boy on the video is not the little boy I know.  He was throwing rocks in the water and asking for more rocks, water, putting words together.  It was like she said.  He said “water,” he really did.

So I mentioned all this to Noah’s speech therapist and asked for his take on why Noah does so well in that environment, but I don’t get the same results.

“Well, Mrs. Dunn, you are Noah’s mother, Noah’s homeschool teacher, and his speech therapist.  It’s probably too much.  Take the speech therapy drilling out of his routine, and just work with him on his school work.  Work on prompting speech from his lexicon during real-life opportunities, but leave the speech therapy to me.”

Seriously?

Okay.  So I horribly misquoted the speech therapist, I’m sure, but that’s the gist  I got.

Seriously?

Stop drilling?  The kid has got apraxia, he’s barely verbal, and he’s 7 years old.  You can’t stop drilling a kid with apraxia.  Everybody knows that.

So I fumed for a few days.  Noah is darn tooting lucky to have a Mom who is willing to drill with him every day.  Stop drilling?

But you know, as I thought about it, I think the speech therapist may have a point.  Maybe.  Or maybe I’m just tired and welcome a break.

But going on the notion that the speech therapist might have a point – Noah actually excels at drilling.  He can make most of the consonant and vowel sounds in isolation.  It’s words and phrases that he struggles with.  I think I tend to wear him out in our speech sessions, so then when I try to prompt speech in real-life activities, he responds to it like its another speech session and resists.  Perhaps it might be better for my wanna-be speech therapist persona to fade into the background and just stick with Momma.

You know, I think what really got me was the notion that somebody other than myself might hold the key to helping Noah find his voice.  I mean, we don’t farm out our kids education, academic or religious, we don’t pay other people to take care of our kids; we feel like we’re wholly responsible to give our children what they need.

So this idea of “leaving speech therapy to the experts” just doesn’t fit.

But I think he might be right.

But I also think, in looking back, that Noah needs different things at different times.  I think he needed traditional speech therapy when he got it at age 3-6.  And I think he needed PROMPT once he turned 6.  And I think he needed the drilling we did over the past year.  But I think, perhaps, the speech therapist was right.  Right now, he just needs his Mom.

So Mom is what he gets, even if Mom is going to still be capturing every teachable language moment she can, even if Mom is still going to be prompting for speech and teaching sign language, even if Mom is still going to be on the lookout for predictable books and opportunities for speech.

What do you think?  Am I caving, or does this make sense?  Where do you think the balance should be between what a speech therapist does in weekly sessions and what a mom should be doing at home?

When is a Bus Not Just a Bus?

You know how exciting it is when you hear your new talker say a new word from the back seat as you drive on your merry way?  That awesome moment when you ask yourself, “Did he really just say that?” and then, sure enough, he says it again.  And that new word that to anyone else is just a word becomes to you the pivoting point that the world is resting on?

Well that happened today.  Just driving down our old country road on the way to the recycling plant.  I heard “bus” in Noah’s unmistakable gruff voice.  No way.  There was a school bus heading our way, but no way could Noah have seen it before he said “bus.”  So then I glanced in the rearview mirror, and sure enough, we had already passed one bus.

I looked over at Leah and said, “Did he just say bus?”

Affirmative.

Well, I hooped and hollered and Noah growled and said and signed “Stop.”  (He hates it when I get all excited about his speech.)

More busses.  “Bus, bus,” I prompted.  More growling.  And then as the next two school busses passed, it was reported from the back seat that Noah was whispering “bus” (knowing Mama just couldn’t help but get excited if she heard it).

Next thing you know, all the kids, including Noah were playing a game of being the first person to say “bus” when another bus was spotted.

Talk (no pun intended) about being in  the right place at the right time!

Raising a courageous hero with Down syndrome rocks!

(Once kids with speech issues start playing games like this, keep the game going by looking for school busses on all your drives and shout out “bus” each time you see one – perhaps the kiddo will join right in, and you’ve just captured a few more word productions for free.)

Capturing Teachable Moments . . .

. . . even when they’re not what you were planning on teaching.

I realized this evening I really didn’t do preschool with Noah today, so I pulled out the Kaufmann cards and the iPad and sat Noah down at the kitchen table.  I found a cute little app with simple puzzles that I wanted him to try, and I thought it would be a good motivator for the Kaufmann cards.  The idea was he’d repeat one Kaufmann word three times and then get to click and drag one puzzle piece. 

Actually, it was working great, although for a few words he was so intent on the puzzle that he rushed the word and wasn’t interested in giving it his best effort.  On top of that, let me tell you, adding in a motivator like that means it takes a LOT longer to work through a stack of cards than the old-fashioned, sit and do nothing else  until you are done with this stack.  Although, come to think about it, the old-fashioned, sit and do nothing else until you are done with this stack usually elicits such a negative, whinny, I really don’t want to do this and I’m going to make sure you know it response, it may be that the time difference is really negligible.

The good news was that when helping him with the puzzle app, I got to reinforce the opposite pair “top and bottom” and introduce a new word, “corner.”  Noah is still figuring puzzles like this out, so I had to direct him a lot about where on the screen to drop the pieces.  I had an “aha” moment and realized “top, bottom and corner” were much better language-wise than “there.”  Catch that teachable moment! 

This was such a good reminder to me that when working with a speech-delayed child, if your priority is speech, never be so focused on other goals that you miss an opportunity to introduce new language.  Think “language” every moment, whether you’re trying to elicit speech in that moment or not.  (Whatever you do, don’t try to make your speech-delayed child speak during every teachable moment.  Receptive language, especially for children with Down syndrome and autism is just as important as expressive language, although our children are usually more delayed in expressive language than receptive.)

How about you?  How are you capturing teachable moments, and just what is it that you’re teaching?