Watching Her Bloom

Anna's Newborn Picture

Photo: Julia Ozab

We have so many dreams for our children when they are born. From the first moment we see them—those tiny, wrinkled, sleepy, screamy, adorable little people—we imagine what they might look like and be like in every stage of their lives. We can’t help it.  We know we can’t know what will come, but we imagine it anyway.

And then we watch them bloom, and they are more beautiful than we could possibly imagine.

Anna jumping

Photo: Julia Ozab

Anna is eight-and-a-half tomorrow. It’s been  almost eight-and-half years since I held her for the first time, since I said “hello” to the little girl I only found out was a girl a few minutes earlier. Almost eight-and-a-half years since we named her and began imagining what her life would be like.

Some of it was pretty close. We knew about her cleft, and her upcoming surgery, and the possibilities of more problems and more procedures in the future. But we didn’t know about her apraxia of speech, or the years or therapy it would entail, or her future struggle with handwriting.

We also didn’t know how resilient she would be, how whip-smart, how funny, how outgoing, or how deeply thoughtful and caring about all of God’s creatures.

At a coastal viewpoint

Photo: Julia Ozab

She’s bloomed into an amazing girl, and she is blooming into an amazing woman. And while it pains us to watch her grow up, knowing that each moment once past is gone forever, it fills us with joy to watch her blossom into the person she is becoming.

The person God imagined all along.

Five Minute Friday

The Difference a Teacher Can Make

Anna with her backpack

First day of 2nd Grade

The last year has made a big difference in Anna’s education and her outlook. Her first grade year wasn’t easy. She wasn’t getting the support she needed either in her classroom or in her school as a whole. So we made the hard decision to move her to a different school.

It was a last resort. I changed schools several times as a child, and I hated being the new kid. I wanted to give her stability, but not at the cost of compromising her education.

The first month was hard. She had several emotional meltdowns in class and at one point her speech language pathologist even suspected that she might be on the autism spectrum. We doubted this since she’d never shown any signs before, and instead we researched school adjustment issues.

She was taking the change harder than we realized, but after about a month or so she settled in. Her second grade teacher, her SLP, and her occupational therapist all supported her, and she showed great improvement in academics, in her speech, and in her handwriting.

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Tell Me About Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia writing sample.

Handwriting with dysgraphia (Image: Alyssa L. Crouch and Jennifer J. Jakubecy)

I’ve been writing about childhood apraxia of speech a lot on this blog over the last month, and I’ve received some great responses from parents of children struggling with this difficult motor-speech disorder. But many “apraxia kids” deal with more than apraxia. Often there are other issues that accompany it. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to talk about some of these other challenges, starting with one that Anna has struggled with since she entered school …


We weren’t sure what to expect when we met Anna’s first grade teacher for our one and only scheduled parent-teacher conference last year. We had heard little  beyond biweekly emails up to that point. Anna brought home regular reading homework, and was one of the best readers in her class, but we had no idea how she was doing in other subjects, particularly handwriting, which she had always struggled with.

Her teacher showed us a variety of schoolwork Anna had completed, commenting on her progress, and then she handed us Anna’s journal.

“This is some of Anna’s writing.”

Page after page of loops, scribbles, and swirls. A cipher without a key. All at once it was four years ago—Anna pleading to be understood, and us unable to understand.

Awaem oobie ees.

Then in speech and now on paper. The scribbles and swirls were the consonants that all sounded alike, the loops were the vowels that flattened into an indistinct “uh.” The lines on the page were like unraveling spools of barbed wire, blocking us from our daughter’s words.

And after four years of struggling to be heard, she had to start all over again. We added occupational therapy to her IEP, and a young girl who’d faced so many obstacles now had one more to overcome.

So much weight on such small shoulders. Like so many kids dealing with one or more of the interconnected aspects of dyspraxia.

As her parents, we had questions. Maybe you are asking yourself the same ones.

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What is Apraxia? (Video)

"What is Apraxia?"VIDEO: A speech therapist explaining cause and symptoms of Apraxia, a condition that prevents babies and eventually toddlers from speaking words that are understandable. Mary West is a speech therapist in St. Augustine.

Watch “What is Apraxia?” online at

Want to know more?

Want to help? Consider a contribution to Team Anna (our 2013 walk is over but we’re still accepting contributions).


Apraxia and Dyspraxia

Apraxia of speech (also known as verbal dyspraxia) is one of a group of interrelated disorders under the umbrella category of dyspraxia. This chart shows how dyspraxia can affect various motor functions as well as the processing of information by the brain and thus impact children in an educational setting.

I want to show this graph to every teacher, every speech-language pathologist, and every occupational therapist in every school in the country. I can’t do that, but I can show it to Anna’s teacher, SLP, and OT. And I can share it in as many places as possible.

Tell Me About Apraxia, Part Four

Speaking of Apraxia - Cover

This Saturday, October 12, we will participate in our third annual Walk for Children with Apraxia of Speech. For the last three weeks, and concluding today, I am sharing information about this common childhood motor-speech delay along with personal stories of our experiences coping with Anna’s apraxia of speech. Today I post an excerpt of an interview I gave to Leslie Lindsay, author of Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents’ Guide to Apraxia of Speech, last February as part of her ongoing “Apraxia Monday” series. The interview is cross-posted at

I appreciate you reading this post and I ask you to share it with others. And if—after reading this post—you decide that you want to help kids with apraxia of speech, please support us. We’re Team Anna (just like every year) and I ask you to make a donation and help us reach our goal. Thank you.

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Telling Anna’s Story

Anna at the 2011 Walk for Children with Apraxia of Speech, Salem, OR

Anna at the 2011 Apraxia Walk in Salem (Photo: Kathleen Harris).

This post was featured on the Apraxia-KIDS blog on October 13, 2011. I am re-posting it here today (with a few small edits)  for Apraxia Awareness Day.

I didn’t plan on becoming a writer, but I have a story to tell. The story of a little girl who knew what she wanted to say but couldn’t make the words come out right. It’s a story (all apraxia parents) know and share.

It’s the story of a girl in search of her voice. Her name is Anna, and she has childhood apraxia of speech.

It took us a while to realize there was something wrong, but about the time she turned two we started to suspect it. I remember one day in particular. My wife Julia and I had taken Anna to our local Gymboree studio for open gym when a little voice caught our ears.

“Help please, mommy.”

We turned to see a small boy struggling to climb up the ladder behind Anna. His mom leaned down and gave him a boost.

“Thank you,” he said as he climbed the rest of the way up the play structure set in the center of the multi-colored classroom.

“He’s a beautiful little boy,” Julia said.

“Thank you,” his mom replied.

“How old is he?”

“Eighteen months.”

The words hit as hard as if the play structure had collapsed on top of us. Eighteen months old and his speech was clear and fluent. Anna was seven months older and we couldn’t understand her.

That’s when we knew there was something wrong, but we didn’t know what it was yet.

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