Going off script, overcoming her language disorder

By Laura Smith|February 9, 2018|Uncategorized|0 comments

Two years ago I wrote a post called, “Speaking in scripts with a story in her eyes.” 

The point of the post was to describe how Ashlynn who was in Kindergarten at the time was speaking in sentences, and her apraxic component of her speech was resolving (meaning she had all of her speech sounds and could articulate them in the correct order), but the language processing disorder that accompanied her apraxia started to become more debilitating.  She would speak in scripts she had been taught.  To a novel conversational partner, she could look like an adept conversationalist, but if you were to have a second conversation with her the script would repeat and you would soon start to suspect something was amiss.

I would say that she has continued to do this all the way through her now second grade year.  ASHA defines language processing disorders as “Spoken Language Disorders.”

A spoken language disorder (SLD), also known as an oral language disorder, represents a significant impairment in the acquisition and use of language across modalities (e.g., speech, sign language, or both) due to deficits in comprehension and/or production across any of the five language domains (i.e., phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics). Language disorders may persist across the lifespan, and symptoms may change over time.

When SLD is a primary disability—not accompanied by an intellectual disability, global developmental delay, hearing or other sensory impairment, motor dysfunction, or other mental disorder or medical condition—it is considered a specific language impairment (SLI).

Ashlynn has what is called a mixed expressive/receptive language disorder, which refers to the fact that her comprehension and usage of language is impaired.  Even though I was an SLP before Ashlynn was born, I don’t think I ever truly realized the devastating impact a language disorder has on a child.

I specialize now in apraxia, and every kid with apraxia goes through a stage where it’s like they have tape put over their mouth.  They all were typically quiet babies who rarely babbled.  They never experienced the 18 month language explosion until much later.  I see them everyday in my practice.  There is a difference though with kids who have apraxia, and then kids who have both apraxia and a language disorder and I can tell you it’s markedly different.

Kids who have both apraxia and a language disorder, struggle significantly longer to speak than their apraxia only counterparts.  I know this firsthand personally, but also professionally.  Once my clients with apraxia start to learn motor plans and get the sound mapping down, their language starts to explode behind it.  I may have to teach some expressive language components like grammar markers (past tense -ed, plural s) but it’s usually the result of their apraxia and has more to do with sound sequencing, than understanding the rules of grammar.

Ashlynn was diagnosed with apraxia and a language disorder before I started my private practice and since that time I have diagnosed, treated, and exited kids with apraxia and mild language issues.  Ashlynn remains clobbered.  That post about scripts I wrote two years ago I could have written two months ago, it’s just we had added more scripts.

That is….until.

A month ago, second semester into second grade I started getting notes from Ashlynn’s para I had not ever seen before.

“Played with friends and initiated conversation.”
“Made myself and her friends laugh with her funny jokes.”
“Becoming more independent in social situations and settings.”

Then at home, her dad and I started laughing at random things she would say.  Things we have never heard her say.  Things she had said off script.  Ashlynn had finally started going off script and it was as hilarious and amazing as if she was 6 years younger and saying things at 18 months old.

“Here’s the deal daddy, I am NOT eating that.”

Here’s the deal?? What is the deal and who taught you the deal?  We would laugh and then she would comment, “I know daddy, I’m funny huh.”

Insert out loud laughing.  Where did this “here’s the deal” come from?  I had never heard her practice that in therapy!  She had gone off script again!! My baby was really and actually finding her voice.

Today we went and visited my 94 year old grandma with dementia.  I was musing in my head that having a relative with dementia was much like having a child with apraxia and a language impairment because they keep repeating the same question.

After about the fifth time of asking how old Ashlynn was, Ashlynn replied,

Still eight!!”

I internally busted a gut.   Oh my gosh.  She said what we all were thinking!

Today though was her big day.  She had a field trip to see the play Little Mermaid and then she was going to the father/daughter dance.  The note from school said she was engaged the entire time and recalled at least two details from the play.  This may not seem noteworthy if your kid doesn’t have a language impairment because most girls by the age of two can name all of the Disney princesses and have watched all of the movies.  Since Ashlynn has never been able to process the story line, she has never, EVER watched a movie through it’s entirety; and therefore has never been enamored with Disney princesses.  As if that wasn’t amazing enough, the note home said she told the para to write that she wanted to now watch Beauty and the Beast.  I was blown over.  Not only had she been able to tell about the play she saw, she made a connection and then a request for a future related event.  Ashlynn has never asked me to do a future event in which she had not yet been prepped for or has practiced.  To ask someone to ask me to take her to see Beauty in the Beast is epic and WILL happen no matter what.

When she got home, she told me all about her field trip and then started talking about the dance.  I listened and smiled the entire time because it’s normally my five year old son who is talking incessantly and telling me stories from his day.   I love hearing his stories too of course, but hearing them from Ashlynn was like watching someone set a world record.  The type and magnitude of the stories she was telling had never been done before.  I couldn’t stop smiling.

When it was time for the dance, her dad came out dressed up but without a tie.  She took one look at him and said, “Dad, don’t you think you should wear a tie?”

I started laughing.

“You want me to wear a tie?” my husband clarified.

“Yeah, go put on a tie” Ashlynn ordered.  I watched thoroughly amused.  There she was, going off script again.  It was amazing.

More off script moments have included “tattling.”  My son has been able to tattle since basically he started talking.  Ashlynn never has, until recently.

“Daddy took me to school and he went VRAAAAAAAAA with his engine.  I don’t like that.”

I started laughing and my laughter turned into tears.  I thought Ashlynn found her voice when she could correctly say all the speech sounds in the right sequence, but THIS, THIS was truly evidence of Ashlynn finding her voice and I couldn’t be happier.




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