Supporting One Another

Written by Sarah Van Dusen
October 1st, 2011

As professionals with typically developing children or no children at all, speech therapy can be a little impersonal. We work with children who are a little late getting their /r/ sounds, children who never learned to talk for whatever reason, and everything in between. We are eager to help all of these children improve to give them greater quality of life and every opportunity the world has to offer, yet every case does not consume us.

I primarily work with children who have childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). These families are consumed by their child's speech disorder. Sometimes, they lose hope and need a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes, they are flying high after a growth spurt in their child's speech or language and need someone to celebrate with them. Sometimes, they are just trudging along trying desperately not to lose sight of that tiny pinpoint of light at the end of this seemingly unending tunnel. In this situation, the speech-language pathologist can be SLP, counselor, cheerleader, advisor, advocate, and friend. This is personal. I eat, sleep, breathe apraxia and the families with whom I work. We're not just working on speech together. We're sharing life - and it's tough.

Something that makes it especially difficult for me is that I'm not a parent. I can only see this from the perspective of a professional, aunt, sister, or friend. While HIPAA is wonderful for protecting privacy, it can work against some of these parents, because I cannot easily connect them with other parents who are on the same consuming journey. September of 2010, at the Dallas Walk for Apraxia, I asked parents to sign up if they would be interested in a support group for parents of children with apraxia. The response was overwhelming. We began in November and have been meeting the first Tuesday of every month since. Parents drive long distances to come. They pay for babysitters, skip other events, postpone birthday celebrations, fight traffic, skip dinner, and arrive ready to support and be supported. They share ideas, concerns, and hope.

I have been honored to be allowed to participate and observe these parents love one another, respect one another, celebrate with one another, and set aside their pride to ask questions about speech, language, parenting, nutrition, schooling, and a thousand other topics. It is a safe place for people to be real - an uncommon event in this country. I am in a unique position, by being allowed to be a part of this group, to see just how personal speech-language deficits can be.

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