What things can we do for my 16-year-old stepdaughter with speech apraxia?

by Carlos Jon Paul
(Portland, OR, United States)

Hello, and thank you so much for providing this forum!

Alexa is the daughter of my fiancee'. I first met them both in 2014. Alexa is now 16. She has speech apraxia and a learning disability, too.

Despite that, she is very friendly and outgoing and loves to communicate in whatever ways she can. With her mother and me, she often (indeed, virtually always) uses other means to communicate her thoughts if we can't understand her speech. She is very creative in this regard, and we can usually figure out what the word is she is trying to say from her charade-like gestures.

As soon as I got to know her and something about her challenges, I became involved. I attended her IEP meetings at school, tried to encourage her to learn sign language, contacted a school of education professor at a local university who helped develop ProLoQuo to Go, an augmentative communication app to see what he could do for her, and accompanied her to several of her speech-language pathology sessions (during which time she made her choice of an AAC device that is supposedly still being custom-made for her).

I am still hopeful that we might in some way be able to expand her capacity for expressing her thoughts more clearly and, in the process, to expand her opportunities for more meaningful social interactions and a deeper, broader range of thought and reflection.

So my primary question is this: Is it too late for us to think Alexa can still improve her speech production?

For instance, instead of saying "lunch" she consistently says "sunch". Is it still possible, although she's no longer a developing child, for her to learn to say the /l/ sound so she even strangers would be able to understand her when she says the word "lunch"? I could probably think of more examples, but I'm sure you understand what it is I'm asking.

I think my logical follow-up question to that should be: What sorts of interventions would you recommend we try to do with her?

Unfortunately, we don't have a lot to spend on her professional treatment right now, except what is provided for by the state. And I'm not sure their services include interventions dealing with her speech production anymore.

Instead, they seem to be focused on simply augmenting her communication. In school her teachers are now working with her and her special education classmates on what they consider to be the most important--what I would call "survival"--life skills, i.e., the very basics, like being able to shop and prepare simple meals for oneself.

Thank you again, both for providing this wonderful forum for parents and stepparents, like me, to bring our individual questions to you.

Warmest regards,
Carlos JP

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