Saturday morning Amara, Grampy and I were sitting around my computer watching old videos of Amara. One of them was titled “The Shake Dance”. Grampy made the video the first time that Amara and I made glow in the dark chalk. The reason for the video’s title was that you were required to shake the chalk powder. Of course, if Amara is going to shake something – she is going to sing and dance! Jenna just got us a new supply of “glow in the dark chalk” but we haven’t made it yet. There will be more shake dancing in our future.
In this video, I am interviewing Amara and asking her what she is doing. “I’m making chak.” What kind of chalk? “Glow in the dak chak.” Where did you get that chalk? “For my bufday.” And who gave you that chalk? “Uncle Mak and Aunt Sandy.” Amara turned to Grampy and I and said, “That’s when I still had trouble with my ‘Rs’.” That video was from May of 2011, just two years ago.
Amara suffers from Apraxia of Speech. I’ve never blogged about it but this seemed like the right moment. Children with Apraxia are often called “late talkers” and that is just what she was. You would never know she had a speech problem to talk to her now although she does still skip words entirely. She will do it both in talking and in reading outloud. This is another symptom of the Apraxia.
Amara started speech therapy when she was about 2 1/2 years old. It was not an easy road and again a lot of the credit goes to her Mom and Dad. Amara went to therapy an average of 3 times a week. It was really a struggle in pre-school as she went to pre-school 3 mornings a week, had speech 3 times a week in the afternoon plus her last year of pre-school she had to go to speech once a week through the public school. Most of these speech classes were only an hour long but what a crazy schedule they had. Her parents were so diligent about helping her with her speech homework, too. Maybe this is one of the reasons Amara has become such a good student. She learned great study habits at an early age.
It has been amazing to sit back and watch how she has changed. Amara had always been a happy and animated child. She just didn’t talk. She loved to watch JoJo’s Circus and dance to the theme song. Sometimes you would see her move her lips but she would never sing a word. Her therapists were amazing. We watched as she went from pointing at everything as her way of communicating to babbling and mispronouncing a few words to really talking! By the time she was watching Sponge Bob she was trying hard to keep up with the words to the theme song, a great improvement over silence.
I loved it when she first started calling me by a name – I was Namu. OK, kind of like Shamu the Whale but I didn’t care. I had a name! I morphed into Nama to Gama to Grandma. Was there ever a better word? Richard went from being “him” to Gampa to Grampa to Grampy! Of course, there was the one time when she was about three or four that I told her to tell Grandpa that dinner was ready. She turned and called towards the office “Honey” like I would have done. She turned back to me with the biggest grin on her face as if she were getting away with something. We all laughed over that one and Grampy will certainly never forget it.
When Amara was about four, I wrote to Sandy “Jenna says that Amara is going through her terrible fours as she never had the terrible twos. It is interesting – Amara didn’t talk much at 2 and it’s kind of, as if the more she learns to talk the more she realizes she can speak her mind! And sometimes she doesn’t agree with Mommy. Especially Mommy since Mommy is the one that deals with the small stuff all day long.”
There were times while she was learning that she would get so frustrated when we wouldn’t understand what she was saying. Clearly, we should have understood and she didn’t want to repeat herself again or say it over slower. Her parents who interacted with her every day were much better at translating than we were. So when I would sense that Amara was getting frustrated I would just blame it on the fact that “Grampy and I have old ears so you need to talk slower”. This really helped. Sometimes!
Other times she would walk around in circles waving her hands while she talked. The therapists taught all of us to make her stand in place, sometimes even hold our hands and concentrate on getting the words out. The pacing was almost as if her mouth was chasing her brain. Making her stand still actually allowed her mouth to catch up.
She made huge strides the summer she turned four. She returned to preschool that year talking so much better that she surprised the teachers. She continued to make slow and steady progress but she had another huge “speech growth spurt” the summer between Kindergarten and 1st grade.
I think having had speech problems has made her a more compassionate person. She doesn’t seem as quick to judge as others are. She always befriends the less fortunate.
The Apraxia is certainly one of the reasons we were so thrilled when she got the lead role in her class play The Library Circus in 2nd grade. I think all those years of speech therapy helped give her the confidence to take center stage fearlessly!
So when the time comes for Amara to receive the Nobel Peace Prize or her Oscar Award she will be poised and beautiful but she certainly won’t be speechless.