Ryder Anderson is a bright elementary student that loves playing catch and hanging out with his friends. Unfortunately, the happy, seven-year-old student has a rare disorder that makes it difficult for him to share his thoughts. Anderson's mother, Michelle Leigh, has witnessed her son's struggles firsthand.
"Sometimes, it's like he's a prisoner in his brain," she said. "He knows what he wants to say but sometimes he can't say it."
Anderson has Apraxia. The speech disorder affects one in 1,000 children. There is little funding for apraxia research. Recently, the Florida student and his mother organized the Jacksonville Walk for Apraxia which benefited Apraxia Kids. This non-profit organization supports speech pathology research and provides grants for speech therapy. Approximately 400 walkers participated and colorfully costumed characters also entertained children at the event.
How Apraxia Affects Children's Speech
The official term for this disorder is the "Childhood Apraxia of Speech" (CAS). Children start talking between the ages of two and four years old. Unfortunately, CAS patients can't form words correctly. Patients have problems using their speech muscles because their brains can't coordinate the movements. These issues result in speech delays. CAS children have lower vocabularies than their peers. "When they try to talk, the parts of the brain that plan and program those movements aren't working efficiently," said Edyth Strand, Ph.D., consultant of speech therapy.
- These patients can't produce sounds smoothly from one word to the next.
- Their jaws, lips, or tongues produce "groping movements" to make the correct sound.
- CAS children distort vowels when speaking.
- Patients use the wrong stresses in words. For example, banana may be "BUH-nan-uh instead of "buh-NAN-uh."
- These patients say syllables with equal emphasis.
- CAS sufferers separate or put gaps between syllables.
- They speak words inconsistently and make different errors each time they say a word.
Apraxia causes include strokes, infections, and traumatic brain injuries. Additional triggers are genetic disorders or metabolic conditions like galactosemia.
The Jacksonville Family Gives Back to Help Apraxia Patients
According to Leigh, her son has had extensive speech therapy, but still has some problems pronouncing one-syllable words. Like Anderson, most CAS patients need extensive speech therapy to learn how to speak. Sadly, some parents can't afford to get their children the help they need. Leigh says their fundraiser has raised $50,000 per year for the last four years. She said that there is a long way to go to raise more money for apraxia research and speech therapy. Anderson continues to improve. The elementary student says that speech therapy has helped, and he's happy with the results.
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