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Dear Parents

Dear Parents,

Look I get it-there is no perfect way to parent. I don't need a kid to know the realities that raising a child, or children, doesn't come with a guidebook of the perfect parenting strategy. There also isn't a perfect solution to raising a kid with Apraxia-if there was, I'm sure it would be a rather popular work of literature.

My parents are sometimes asked how they raised me, how in the world they raised me with Apraxia to be as confident as I am. This question was asked at the conference, in messages, etc. Now, this is not intended to praise myself, but it's a testament to my parent's strategies in raising me. My dad always stood by the idea that, "Parents don't only raise children, they are raising future adults."

This philosophy fueled their decision making and provided me a childhood that any child, Apraxia or not, is deserving of.

My parents knew when I was young that I did not need any further help in being different or standing out. Being nonverbal until the age of 7 already isolated me from typical children. Then speaking not fully inteligibly, and then with an accent-we all knew I did not need any help in standing out from the crowd of typical kids.

Anyways, my parents were dedicated in ensuring I had the opportunity to be a typical child regardless of Apraxia and speech issues. They enrolled me in Girl Scouts (Starting a troop and secretly telling others about my speech delay), they signed me up for any athletic sport even though I was in special ed PE classes, such as: Tennis, Ice Skating, and Swim Lessons (I was even swimming before I could speak!), they would give me books for fun so I could escape from reality.

Regardless, they assured me that I was just like the typical kids. Even when I felt odd or alone from others, my parents consistently provided a venue where I was a typical kid if only for an hour or two. At the end of the day, they were raising a future adult, regardless of Apraxia.

When I was in 4th grade, 50% intelligible, and my dental work was insanely bad. My teeth were all crooked, underbite and all. I was going to speech therapy 3-4 times a week and still feeling isolated from the typical kids no matter how hard I tried.

Given the severity of my teeth, the dentist suggested that I needed a full set of braces and headgear to wear 22 hours a day.

Yes, headgear 22 hours a day-meaning I would need to wear it to school.

The dentist said this was the only way to resolve my dental issues, but my parents were NOT having that. My dad explained that I already stand out in school, attend speech therapy because I can't talk well, and I don't need headgear to make me any more of a bully's perfect target.

Thank you Dad! We ended up going elsewhere, several dental consultations later and an orthodontist said I can just wear braces-maybe get a second set in the future-but headgear was unnecessary.

It took extra work, extra money, and extra effort. But that extra energy was worth it-I wasn't in headgear at least and braces weren't so bad. I could change the colors of them, which was cool.

I wish more parents took extra steps in not only assisting their children to overcome their disorder, but to give them confidence that they too are typical kids and human beings. To just spend that extra time and energy to ensure that the kid has a chance to feel 'typical' and that they fit in. Sometimes, I think we forget that these kids diagnosed with Apraxia also want to be treated like their typical counterparts.

Kids notice. They notice when they have to wear a neon shirt with writing explaining "I'm non-verbal, please call Susie if lost," while other kids get to wear whatever they want. I digress, but I personally love the key chains, necklaces, and bracelets with this pertinent information. It's subtle, but efficient in communicating the same exact thing.

Look, I understand as parents your job is to raise and protect your child. You know your child best and better than anyone else.

But one day, that child will not be a child anymore.

And when that day comes, the most important thing that a child can have as an adult is confidence in oneself and positive self esteem.

Can you really give them these qualities though if you're constantly setting them apart from others? If you're constantly signaling that one kid is normal and your kid is special and different?

If you're giving them a neon vest to wear on a bus, while other kids get to wear what they want. If you're making them wear a T-Shirt explaining their disorder at Disneyland, while they see other kids with Mickey Mouse and Disney Princess shirts?

They are still children, Apraxia or not, and they would like to be treated like the typical kids they see around them. That's the remarkable characteristic of special-needs parenting: raising a child with a disability and disorder, while making them feel and respecting them as a typical child.

I beg the question, that if your child already stands out from others-and recognizes it-why not slowly provide them with venues and opportunities to pursue what 'typical' children would? Take the risk! Give them confidence that they are deserving, and not any less than those considered "normal."

What is the worst possible thing that can happen?

They fail miserably, and so what?

It happens!

They keep trying until they improve in an activity outside of speech therapy. Or they try something new! It's adaptability and, let's face it, that's a part of life as children and as adults (Apraxia or not).

Rather than simply finding the quickest solution to treat Apraxia and cure certain issues that arise as a result of it, there should also be consideration about the impact. Will this solution impact your child's confidence, self-esteem, and how others treat him or her? Will the solution allow him or her to at least feel like a typical child?

Or, even more drastic, how will this decision impact them as a future adult?

A Concerned Former Child with Apraxia,
Alyson

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