Apraxia and teaching sign language? - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-22-2009, 04:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Has anyone here taught their children with apraxia sign language? Did it make a difference?

My son is three and has apraxia. He can communicate basic things but beyond that things get sketchy. He can get very frustrated when we do not understand what he is trying to tell us which leads to some pretty awful meltdowns and tantrums on a daily basis. I feel so helpless because there is nothing I can do to help him.

There is a sign language class that starts in the next few weeks I am considering registering for. DH big concern is if we taught him ASL that he would not have any reason to speak verbally. Is there anyone here that has experience with this than can give me some input?

BTW: I have not spoken to his speech therapist about this yet, he is being transitioned from EI to the school district because he recently turned three and everything is kind of up in the air at the moment. His previous ST had mentioned in conversation it may be a good idea to teach him some signs.
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Old 02-22-2009, 04:24 PM
 
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My son is 3 and is creative on how he communicates. He is very smart, but he can only say about 25 words that can be understood. We started signing, then the Nancy Kaufman told me to stop so he was forced to try talking better. Once he figured out the use of words then I was encouraged to try signing again. He signs about 70-80 words. We use Signing Time and Baby See 'N Sign. Baby See N' Sign is his favorite. Signing Time is to stimulating. Way to busy. Baby See N' Sign is calmer and systematic. DS has major daily meltdowns. ASL has been great for us! But signing is challenging because of the apraxia not just affecting speech. The hand movements for ASL is also challenging. Because he has to sequence the movements for making a sign. He moves his hands very awkwardly as he tries to sign. He never learned to clap until his little brother taught him. All that sequencing is tough. We watch the movies over and over and practice it lots. We make it fun. It does help eliminate some of the tantrums at times.
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Old 02-22-2009, 04:58 PM
 
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My son will be 2 soon and has apraxia (not officially diagnosed as that, but it's pretty obvious). We started him in sign language classes at 11 months old when we discovered that he also had some hearing loss (although after a few surgeries due to structural issues, his hearing loss isn't the reason for speech issues anymore) Because he has hearing loss, he qualified for services through the Regional Infant Hearing Program in our area, which sends out an ASL instructor to our house once a week.

ASL has been wonderful for us!!! He went from a profound communication delay to only mild-moderate (when taking into account his signs). He has over 70 signs he uses now. He is able to communicate with us in several word sentences. He is able to function in the Deaf community around us, and has met several new friends.

Verbally he really only has two sounds he can make "M" and "B", and he's starting to be able to use them in slightly different ways to make slightly different word approximations. If he didn't have his signs, we would all be extremely frustrated with each other constantly!!! I can't imagine him not having a language to use.

Mommy to BigBoy Ian (3-17-05) ; LittleBoy Connor (3-3-07) (DiGeorge/VCFS):; BabyBoy Gavin (10-3-09) x3 AngelBaby (1-7-06)
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Old 02-22-2009, 06:50 PM
 
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Apraxia means that you can't always get the words out that you want to, even if you know how to say them, and have said them before.

Whether he knows ASL or not isn't going to have an impact on this, except that you do continue want to work on spoken language even if he's signing.

But everyone needs to communicate. And if verbal communication isn't work for him, it's time to give him something else.

Early intervention specialist and parent consultant since 2002.
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Old 02-23-2009, 12:45 AM
 
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We loved the Signing Times DVDs from the library. Also consider PECS if the apraxia makes signing difficult. There are lots of good PECS web sites where you can print out the ones you want.

I always recommend food as a good starting point. Seems like every kid would like some control over what to eat.

DD1 = 8 yrs *** DD2 = 6 yrs
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Old 02-23-2009, 02:03 AM
 
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I'm a Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and the mom of a little girl with Down Syndrome and Apraxia. I highly recommend signing. I'm amazed that so many professionals are still resist signing because they are afraid the kiddos won't want to talk. Signing has been the best thing we have done for communication. My daughter has started to drop it some, because she is trying to say more...but was up to almost 500 signs thanks to "Signing Time" dvd's. I'm so grateful that we can still communicate even though her speech is still emerging!

-Jenn, Single mama by : to Yan, who is "Chromosomally Enhanced".
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Old 02-23-2009, 10:42 PM
 
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My son does not have apraxia but dyspraxia (I was told there was a difference though I can never remember what it is). I was told my the specialist that we see for his chromosome disorder that a child with dyspraxia needs other things that can trigger his brain to find the right word. Sometimes signing can help with that because it is another trigger. She also recommended PECS as another trigger as well. My son does not sign a lot but we did teach him some of the basics. Like "more" "help" "drink" "milk" etc. It helped because that was the most tantrum producing time...when he really wanted something and I just couldn't figure it out. We are working on more. And now when he wants something but can verbalize it and doesn't have a sign for him he just claps his hands together......actually kinda cute!
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Old 02-24-2009, 01:14 PM
 
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I just had this conversation with dd's ST yesterday. Grace has been taking fish oil for about three months and her language ability (caveat in a moment) has increased dramatically. What I mean by ability, though, is that she is stringing longer and longer sentences together and clearly producing much more abstract thoughts/statements. Problem is, her apraxia itself has not improved enough to make her speech any more intelligible. In fact, because her sentences have gotten so much longer and now include non-concrete things that aren't in the immediate vicinity, she is actually harder to understand. Pair this with her increased desire to communicate, and you can imagine the mounting frustration.

Anyway, I asked her ST about whether or not ASL would help Grace and she said that it wouldn't necessarily be the best use of time/resources for her because she would have such a learning curve to catch up with the words she's already "using" that it might actually slow her down. Also, she said that it's important for Grace to keep trying to verbally communicate, since not everyone is going to understand her with ASL anyway, and so her frustration at not being able to say/be understood wouldn't necessarily go away. Finally, she suggested (a while back, and we have ordered) a augmentative communication device which, she thinks, is going to do more to help her with the motor planning aspect of her apraxia (because of the time/planning it takes to find the correct button) PLUS it will give her a "voice," which she can then mimic.

Now, if Grace had had a better foundation pre-verbal with ASL the story may be different, as with Connor, but that's not the case. When she came to us she was using a very limited amount of sign but immediately abandoned it whenever a verbal approximation achieved the communication that she was attempting. I think it has to do with the impulse that children with apraxia have. It's my understanding that, generally, the desire is pretty high to be able to communicate verbally and the outlet that ASL provides is still just a band-aid - a good band-aid in many cases, yes, but not always, because it doesn't actually treat the problem but rather is simply a coping mechanism and/or stop-gap.

I'd suggest you get input, as I'm sure you will, from your little one's ST - he/she's going to have a better handle on what it is that is going to help him get where he needs/wants to go. And try the Fish Oil!!!! It's been pretty amazing.

Wendy ~ mom to VeeGee (6/05), who has PRS, Apraxia, SPD, VPI, a G-Tube, 14q duplication, and is a delightful little pistol! I'm an English professor and a writer.
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Old 02-24-2009, 05:12 PM
 
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We used a fair number of signs with Charlotte before she could talk. We had taught her a bunch and when we finally found an apraxia-experienced slp she encouraged us to do more and gave us her Polaroid camera to take pictures of things around the house so Charlotte could point to other things to help her communicate. She had no concerns at all about the signing or pictures impeding Charlotte learning to speak. In fact it gave us some clues to her language development because we could see her putting together 2 words and then more until she was making short sentences via her signs.

One thing I learned with Charlotte (and it seems common with kids with apraxia from what I can tell) is that putting added pressure on to talk actually makes it harder for them to talk. By giving her signs and pictures and not asking her to talk at home it took that pressure off of her.

We had I think around 30 signs that we used with her and even once she began to speak we still used them for a while, but eventually she stopped. Now if I try to show her a sign she used to know she looks at me like I've grown a second head.
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Old 03-01-2009, 03:51 AM
 
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My daughter signs a little - she knew more but has been dropping it and doing more charades type gestures and trying to sound things slowly to make it understood - works sometimes. Signing Time is AMAZING!!!
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Old 03-01-2009, 07:26 PM
 
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I'm not a pro but I would think that signing would help with verbal as per apraxia; having a visual cue as well as less frustration couldn't hurt could it?

The Signing Time DVDs actually encourage speech and reading along with signing because they have songs and talking all throughout. Could just be more reinforcement for the verbal?

Besides, I would think that its more important to communicate however they can. Would you rather have her use 2-10 spoken words or 50-100 signs?

The speech therapists I've talked to (last count was 6) all said signing was helpful. But that was in relation to my son who is Autistic, so it might be different for a child with apraxia.
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Old 03-01-2009, 08:18 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kalkiwendy View Post
I just had this conversation with dd's ST yesterday. Grace has been taking fish oil for about three months and her language ability (caveat in a moment) has increased dramatically. What I mean by ability, though, is that she is stringing longer and longer sentences together and clearly producing much more abstract thoughts/statements. Problem is, her apraxia itself has not improved enough to make her speech any more intelligible. In fact, because her sentences have gotten so much longer and now include non-concrete things that aren't in the immediate vicinity, she is actually harder to understand. Pair this with her increased desire to communicate, and you can imagine the mounting frustration.
we are having the same 'problem'! I am so happy to hear longer phrases and even sentences but now it means I have to try to decipher 3 - 5 words at a time and not just one. DS does charades to try to get us to understand but it is so hard and frustrating for everyone. \

as far as ASL goes, we use, more, all done and help. I just go back and forth back and forth about it. Do it, and spend a lot of time learning it when that time may be better spent in ST? or don't do it and continue to have daily meltdowns. I can understand 99% of his speech but others can't.......its a hard choice for us.
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