As fortunate as he is, my nephew hasn’t had the easiest start. Perhaps his greatest challenge is childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). If you’re not familiar with this motor speech disorder, you’re not alone: I hadn’t heard of it before S. was diagnosed.
In the words of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Children with CAS have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words. This is not because of muscle weakness or paralysis. The brain has problems planning to move the body parts (e.g., lips, jaw, tongue) needed for speech. The child knows what he or she wants to say, but his/her brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words.” (You can also learn a lot about CAS from the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association. And I’ll refer you to this post on my sister’s blog for additional personal insights.)
His language obstacles notwithstanding, my nephew is already an avid bibliophile (he’s pictured here on a recent library visit–photo credit courtesy of his mom). Children with apraxia of speech commonly encounter difficulties in learning to read, spell, and write as well as in learning to speak. So his road to full immersion in the world of words that means so much to me is likely to be significantly slower than I’d like it to be. At the same time, however, in these three years he has brought such added richness and joy to my life, and to the lives of all his family members (and, I daresay, to his dedicated therapists, who seem to find him as sweet and beguiling as we do!), that, despite all my degrees and publications, I can’t begin to describe in words myself.
Happy Birthday to my precious nephew, with my love always.