Speech disorder Apraxia impacts 1 in 1,000 kids

Local mother says her pediatrician missed warning signs

By Jennifer Waugh - The Morning Show anchor, I-Team reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Michelle Leigh's son, Ryder, was born healthy. He gained weight and was growing like other babies his age. He met all his milestones.

But Leigh started to notice her son was not talking as much as other kids his age. 

"He could identify letters and objects. He had no signs of autism, but he didn't speak," Leigh said. "The pediatrician said not to worry about it, he's just a late talker."

Ryder could say "momma" and "dadda" His first word was "cat." But as quickly as he spoke, those words soon disappeared. By 3 years old, he could only speak 34 words.

Leigh's teachers finally convinced her that something was wrong, encouraging her to meet with a speech therapist.

Ryder was diagnosed with Apraxia. It is a neurological disorder that prevents a child from speaking. There is no cure. It is managed with intense therapy that trains the mouth, tongue and jaw to speak.

Melissa Gillmer is a speech pathologist who treats Apraxia patients.  She identified these warning signs of Apraxia:

  • A baby that does not coo
  • A child who is always quiet
  • A limited repertoire of words
  • Words that show up, but then are forgotten
  • A child who does not move his/her mouth like other kids his/her age

Ryder is now 4 1/2 years old and is doing much better, thanks to intense therapy. 

Leigh is helping to organize a fundraiser walk to help spread awareness about Apraxia. The condition is not covered by medical insurance, and the private one-on-one therapy sessions are expensive.

The walk is Nov. 14 at 10 a.m. and begins at The Bolles School. Registration is at 9 a.m. and costs $20 for adults and $10 for children. For more information on the walk, go to casana.apraxia-kids.org.

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