After starting my career as a clinical Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) and working in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and with patients who have received traumatic brain injuries I was blessed with a beautiful (albeit premature) little boy. Complications were present from the start, but I was hopeful (or maybe just in denial) he would catch up and have no difficulties. Then the years passed and he still had no words, and only a couple of sounds. I tried every strategy I was ever taught and yet NOTHING helped.
Very long story short, he was diagnosed with severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) at age 3 among other diagnosis’. I was devastated, but based on my background I immediately started researching alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) and best treatment practices for CAS. We found an apraxia specialist trained by the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA) and an AAC specialist who provided him therapy 7 times a week (5 individual speech sessions and 2 group sessions a week) through our school district. Soon, we also added occupational therapy for sensory, fine motor, and feeding therapy as well as physical therapy for gross motor skills. It is important for you to know that I watched every single therapy session my son ever attended. It is important because I want you to know that I saw his struggles, I saw what professionals and specialists were using to troubleshoot and treat his challenges. I questioned their techniques and I picked up valuable information through these questions and observations. Information that I then heavily researched and want to share with you.
During this time we had our first professional tell us we may want to pursue homeschooling in the future due to the severe nature of his delays. Our developmental pediatrician believed he would struggle greatly in school and would need extra support. I didn’t pay it much attention, but when his complex medical needs started interfering with his ability to be in school the words of our former developmental pediatrician kept creeping back in. Finally, I decided I had no choice but to try to homeschool him. I started researching (and continue to research) day and night on how to homeschool the child with special needs. We all fell in love with homeschooling pretty much immediately and we realized very quickly that he was THRIVING being homeschooled. He soon was at or beyond age level in most skills, had friends who accepted him and included him, and we were able to stay on top of his medical needs. We found a wonderful specialist that worked with his complex medical needs; the fear finally started subsiding.
Our second son has no developmental delays. Since we needed to homeschool my oldest because of medical reasons we decided we couldn’t send one to school and not the other, especially given how close they are as brothers and how much my oldest wanted to attend school. So, we officially became a homeschooling family and set out to make it the most fulfilling experience possible for them both. I still spend the majority of my time researching, but now that research also includes how to navigate homeschooling a child with special needs vs. a typically developing child as well as how to help my children succeed given their very unique and very different learning styles.
It has been an incredibly interesting journey and everyday I find new ways to help us and many others along the way. We have participated in numerous research studies, gone to conferences, and had a chance to speak with world renowned leaders in apraxia research and treatment. I lead apraxia homeschooling groups on Facebook and follow current practices. I have learned a lot along the way, not only about apraxia, but about the other speech and language disorders on a much more personal and detailed level, something my training did not and could not offer no matter how hard they tried.
I hope that my background as a Speech and Language Pathologist, the knowledge I have acquired since having a child with special needs, and what I continue to learn on a daily basis will be of some assistance to you. I want you to ask questions. Email me at Nicole.Quaka@gmail.com or message me on Facebook (The Homeschooling SLP). If I don’t know the answer I hope I will be able to lead you in the direction you may need to find the answer. I want it to be perfectly clear though that I cannot and will not pretend to know more than your child’s therapy team and specialists. Only you and your team know the best course of action for your child. I’m simply here to provide resources, ideas, support, and my own experiences to encourage you along the way.
From my heart to yours,