Gia’s speech therapist had seen Apraxia in children before, and couldn’t help but notice some of the “typical” signs in Gia. As strong as her feelings were, she regrettably admitted that this was not something she was qualified to diagnose, or even provide therapy for. She explained that this wasn’t your typical speech delay, but that it was a neurological speech disorder, that would require years of intensive “drill” therapy by a specialized therapist. As I held back tears, I asked, “What does this mean for Gia’s future?” With a smile on her face, she replied, “Gia has a bright future!” She felt confident that someday, she will sound just like her peers, and this will all be a thing of the past. In the same breath, she was honest with us, and said this would be a very long road, and our lives will revolve around her treatment. “I’m going to refer you over to a place called The Foundations Developmental House, who specializes in Apraxia”, she said. “They will be able to help Gia”.
My husband and I were quiet on the way home. At that moment, we both needed to process this information on our own. We went to this meeting with very different views about Gia, but left with the same heart-breaking news. I went through a range of emotions on the 15 minute drive home, but as I sat in the passenger seat, staring out the window, I cried silent tears of relief. I finally knew how to help my daughter, my husband and I would finally be on the same page, and I could finally leave the months of denial behind me.
I called The Foundations House the next morning, and on the other line, was the office manager, Holly. I can guarantee that Holly hears from worried, confused and desperate parents everyday, but at that moment, Gia and I had her full attention. She stayed on the the phone with me for close to 30 minutes, explaining the process for diagnosis, insurance coverage, and any other anxiety-filled questions I had. In so many words, I warned her that she had her hands full with me, because I was ESPECIALLY worried, confused, and desperate; maybe even a little crazy! Her response, “No Sheila, you’re normal”. It’s as if she reached through the phone and hugged me. By the end of our conversation, Holly had not only made me feel normal, but she made me feel safe. A sense of calm came over me that I hadn’t felt since Gia was 18 months old. I knew we were in good hands, and this was the beginning of recovery for my daughter.
A few days later, we walked through the door of The Foundations House. I was a nervous wreck waiting for Anna-Alyse, the Speech Pathologist that would be evaluating Gia. As we sat in the waiting room, I saw several kids come and go, and they all looked like Gia. Until and unless they opened their mouths, you would never know anything was “different”. I felt an immediate connection with these parents that surrounded me, like we were this small community, that didn’t even need to speak to know what the other was feeling; I had never felt this before. Moments later, Anna-Alyse walked out, and called Gia’s name. Gia jumped out of her chair, and hugged her. My daughter didn’t know that Anna-Alyse was here to help her, but that hug meant she trusted her, and from that moment on, I did too.
After 2 separate evaluations, and a two-week wait for the results, Anna-Alyse gave Gia her official diagnosis of Apraxia of Speech. I knew it was coming, and yet, for some reason, it didn’t make it any easier. I thought I had prepared myself, but you really can’t. I suddenly had a child with special needs, and it was something I had to face. I could no longer hide under my comfortable blanket of denial. After all, ignorance is bliss! Anna-Alyse would go on to recommend 2-3 days a week of speech therapy. She strongly suggested that Gia be evaluated by the Occupational Therapist in their building. This type of therapy helps children with their motor planning skills, which is one of the core issues of Apraxia. In the end, Gia would have her very own team of therapists working on her recovery. Anna-Alyse and Karen for speech, and Heather for OT; they are her Apraxia Angels, and we are grateful for them everyday.