CASANA Welcomes Interim Executive Director Michele Atkins

Dear friends and family of CASANA,

The Board of Directors of the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA) is honored to welcome and introduce Michele Atkins as our new interim Executive Director. Ms. Atkins is an accomplished nonprofit executive veteran with expertise in nonprofit transitions. She has graciously agreed to work with CASANA’s founder and previous Executive Director, Sharon Gretz, the Board, and staff of CASANA as we transition from a founder-led organization.

Over the next several months, Michele will work closely with the CASANA team to shore up internal policies and procedures to ready CASANA for a new permanent Executive Director and our next stage. The Board of Directors, Sharon, and the staff have confidence in Michele’s expertise and experience. Our goal to accomplish a seamless transition which will ensure that CASANA’s vital programs, research, and communications will continue to support our children. We are committed to preserving and growing our comprehensive support systems to ensure that the current and future generations of children with apraxia of speech are afforded the best opportunity to develop a voice of their own.

Mary Sturm MD, President of the Board


Michele-and-Pat-AtkinsMichele R. Atkins, CFRE, retired in 2013 from her position as President and CEO of Heritage Community Initiatives, a community based not-for-profit organization based in Braddock, PA.  She has more than 30 years of not-for-profit management, strategic planning, fundraising and governance experience.

Ms. Atkins worked professionally for numerous not-for-profit organizations, interfacing with boards of directors, supervising staff in multiple locations, creating and implementing strategic and business plans, creating and implementing a variety of national fundraising strategies and campaigns and representing organizations to the media.  She worked for and served in a senior leadership position at the Child Care Center in Bethel Park (Executive Director), the Make-A-Wish Foundation of western Pennsylvania and southern West Virginia (President & CEO), the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, the American Lung Association, Gilda’s Club of New York City and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Ms. Atkins earned a B.A. from Carlow College.  Her professional credentials include CFRE, Certification in Human Services, University of Pittsburgh, Leadership Pittsburgh, and Certified Change Master.  She also received honors and awards from Carlow College Woman of Spirit, Carlow College Distinguished Alumnae Award, Joseph Gilbert Award for Excellence in Management, Vectors Pittsburgh Woman of the Year in Community Service, Variety Club Sweetheart Award, Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities of Tri-Ad-Mac Big MAC Award, and the Humanitarian Award from the Fraternal Societies of Greater Pittsburgh.

She currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Carlow University.  She is also on the Board of Directors for the Pittsburgh Opera (Executive Committee) and of UPMC Magee Womens Hospital.  She has served on the boards of directors of Friends of the Orphans, New York SAVE, Animal Friends, Inc., American Society of Association Executives, Greater Pittsburgh Commission for Women, the Mendelssohn Choir, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Pat McKeown and Dancers, the Pittsburgh International Folk Theatre, Project STAR, Every Child, Inc., Variety the Children’s Charity, and the Western Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse, KaBOOM!, Bethlehem Haven, and Heritage Health Foundation, Inc.

CASANA Board of Directors Thanks Founder and First Executive Director, Sharon Gretz

To the families and friends of children with CAS:

With a heavy heart, the Board of Directors of CASANA announces the resignation of Sharon Gretz as CASANA’s Executive Director. We are eternally thankful for her undying support and commitment.

CASANA evolved from a group of families and professionals who desired to positively impact the lives of children with apraxia of speech. However, it was Sharon’s vision, genius and passion which orchestrated CASANA’s birth and development. Sharon weaved together families, therapists, childhood professionals, and researchers, not just into a “net” to catch our children but into a trampoline to propel them toward their goals.

Under Sharon’s dynamic leadership, CASANA has grown into an acclaimed national organization improving the lives of children with apraxia and their families. For example in recent years, CASANA provided:

  • Website and online educational resources to nearly 400,000 new users annually
  • Online support group participation of over 25,000 members
  • 25 – 30 annual educational programs providing training to several thousands of professional and parent participants
  • Reseach funds for project that contribute significantly to the growing body of published, peer-reviewed apraxia research
  • Financial support for several thousand speech therapy sessions annually through our partnership with Small Steps in Speech grants
  • Support for over 80 annual Walk for Apraxia events and celebrations of children with apraxia across the US and Canada

The Board of Directors of CASANA takes seriously our responsibility to carry Sharon’s legacy forward. The Board has formed a transition committee, hired an executive search firm, NonProfit Talent, and employed an accomplished veteran interim Executive Director with expertise in transitions to facilitate a smooth adjustment. Though many find transitions scary, Sharon has lit the path for a productive and bright future for CASANA and our constituents.

We cannot begin to thank Sharon for her years of leadership and her willingness to continue to stand with CASANA as a friend and supporter to ensure every child has an opportunity to find their voice.

Mary Sturm MD
President of the Board of CASANA

CASANA Announces New SLP Directory: Helping Parents to Locate Experienced Professionals

CASANA SLP Directory

CASANA is pleased to announce our new online SLP Directory!  The new directory on our website is designed to allow parents and caregivers of children with apraxia of speech to locate speech-language pathologists in their area that have expertise in treating childhood apraxia of speech.

Because CAS is relatively rare, we know that not all clinicians have had a great deal of exposure to children with apraxia, not in their graduate school training and not in their day to day clinical experience.  Additionally, recent research and evidence-based practices are critical knowledge for the SLP in order to provide accurate diagnosis and the most effective speech therapy.

For this reason, a process has been set up for clinicians to apply to be listed in the directory.  The process includes an online quiz and a series of questions that, to the best that we are capable, will help distinguish SLPs with up-to-date knowledge, training, experience, and understanding about the complex speech challenges of children with apraxia of speech.  We believe that the professional community concerned for children with apraxia of speech shares our goal to help children with CAS with the most effective therapy possible.

Also, it will take time for the directory to populate with eligible speech-language pathologists so please check back if there is no listing in your area.  We also appreciate this announcement being shared to qualified SLPs who may want to be involved and families.

The CASANA SLP Directory is located HERE.

If you are an SLP who is interested in being listed in the directory, click HERE.

Once Upon a Time Foundation Logo

CASANA is extremely grateful to the Once Upon a Time Foundation for their funding and collaboration on this project.  For questions or additional information about the directory, you may contact

CASANA Seeks Candidates for Marketing and Development Committee Membership

CASANA improves the systems of support in the lives of children with apraxia of speech by providing information, support and awareness; educating families, professionals and community members; and supporting and funding apraxia research.

The Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2000, seeks volunteer board committee members to support the overall policy and direction of the organization. CASANA values a board and committees which represent commitment, mutual respect and collaboration in order to assure the organization is best positioned to serve the needs of our constituents now and in the future.

In particular, at this time we seek additional committee members who are highly skilled in nonprofit Fund Development and/or Marketing in order to boost expertise in this area on our Board. Individuals who are skilled in these areas and have served on nonprofit boards and/or committees and understand nonprofit business operations are highly encouraged to contact us.  Committee members are not voting board members but contribute to the organization through their service as a committee member.


  • Review and assess CASANA’s activities to assure effectiveness and adherence to the organization’s mission and vision.
  • Work constructively and respectfully with CASANA Executive Director, Board of Directors, Committee Chair and partners.
  • Serve as a member of CASANA’s Development & Marketing Committee. Meetings and other discussions for these committees/groups will primarily occur remotely, outside of the quarterly scheduled board meeting.
  • Committee members are expected to review the committee agenda and related reports prior to quarterly meetings.
  • Contribute to the board’s role in planning funding diversification, communicating CASANA’s impact for the organization, and marketing/branding the organization.
  • Work actively within the legal responsibilities of board service, helping to identify internal or external conflicts of interest or other challenges that may put the organization at risk.

Terms, Time, and Financial Commitment

We are seeking a minimum one year commitment. Committee members are expected to attend at least 75% of quarterly meetings, support CASANA with approximately 4 hours per month, from committee meetings and other related work.

There is no financial compensation for this position, other than reasonable reimbursement for expenses incurred during furtherance of the organization’s business. Committee meetings are held quarterly,  via teleconference, with more frequent involvement expected on decisions made via phone conferencing and electronically.

Interested candidates should submit a letter of interest and resume, or requests for additional information, to

Apraxia Awareness Day Proclaimed in the Congressional Record

(Washington, DC) Friday, May 13 – Today, the Honorable Keith Rothfus (Pennsylvania) recognized Childhood Apraxia of Speech and Apraxia Awareness Day in front of the United States House of Representatives.

In his remarks, Congressman Rothfus stated, “Children with apraxia and their families confront tremendous obstacles with determination and persistence. To all the families and children living with apraxia, I offer my heartfelt encouragement as you deal with the unique challenges you face. I ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing these individuals on Apraxia Awareness Day this May and in thanking the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association for increasing awareness in our communities about this challenging disorder.”

CASANA thanks Congressman Rothfus for his support and compassion for children with apraxia of speech and their families!  We are truly appreciate that he made sure that Apraxia Awareness Day is raised to the highest level of our nation and are commemorated in the Congressional Record of the 114th Congress of the United States.


2016 Speech, Language and Communication Camps



The list of camps for 2016 is ready to go! CASANA has researched and compiled this list of summer camps that have a focus on speech, language, or communication.  Summer time may be a great time for our kids with apraxia to get out, have some fun and continue to practice their speech and language skills in a fun and different environment.  (Please note: we do not have personal knowledge of the quality of any individual camp.  Parents should investigate camps further on their own to assure appropriateness for their child)

2016 Summer Camps for Speech, Language, and Communication

When We Think About Giving Thanks..


As we approach Thanksgiving, the staff and Board of Directors of us at CASANA send our thanks to you. The good we are able to achieve for children with apraxia and their families is because you, and others like you, took the time to help. You made a decision to get behind our cause – helping children with apraxia find their voices. We are so grateful to you for standing with us in support.

You are a hero in our eyes, as are those children with apraxia who struggle so much just to speak. May you and your loved ones have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Finally, five short days from now is a national day of giving. It is called Giving Tuesday. Please help us spread the word. Keep an eye out for our communications next Tuesday, December 1st. Help others make the same decision that you did to stand with CASANA in support of children with apraxia.

Sharon Gretz
Executive Director/Founder

Giving Tuesday with Stretchy

It’s August and That Means Back to School for Kids with Apraxia!

It’s Apraxia-KIDS Back to School Resources!

It’s August and back to school time for our kids! We thought that some of our resources may help you successfully launch your child with apraxia for the school year.

One thing that many parents worry about is helping the new teachers to understand childhood apraxia of speech and how your child may be impacted in the classroom. We have a free download called “My Child Has Apraxia: Letter to a Teacher” as well as other download documents that you may find helpful.

A great newer resource is a color booklet designed especially for classroom teachers, called, An Introduction to Childhood Apraxia of Speech for Classroom Teachers. It describes CAS in simple terms; provides apraxia facts at a glance; impact in the classroom and how teachers can help the child in the classroom.

We can also help classmates understand with the booklet, What I Want to Tell You About Apraxia: For Classmates and Friends, with kid written and friendly helpful tips. Another resource for classmates, is the book I Want to Be Your Friend, written from the perspective of young Emma who has apraxia and wants to let her classmates know about her struggle but also how she is just like them and wants to be friends.

But ….. our children are way more than just being kids with a severe speech issue, they also have many strengths, special interests, motivators, etc. Have you considering creating an “All About Me” book about your child to share with his or her school team?  This resource can help the school team see the “whole” child!

That said, sometimes parents feel very worried that others may bully their child. There are some unique risks to children with disabilities who are bullied as discussed in this article, What is Bullying? Are There Unique Risks for Children with Disabilities?  We have a terrific online webinar that all parents and school personnel should view, sharing special perspectives of how we can minimize bullying for children with apraxia of speech.

Often our children receive some speech and language testing early in the school year. Understanding Tests and Measurements is an online learning opportunity to help parents make sense of the jargon, the terms and methods used to test our children with apraxia and how to interpret them.

Once, a child’s current level of performance is understood, their IEP team (which includes parents) focuses on creating measurable goals. The webinar, Creating IEP Goals for Children with Apraxia, can help teams think about how apraxia impacts a child’s functioning in the school setting and how to set appropriate goals.

We hope that this helps get you started in an amazing and successful school year for your child!

More Resources:

Articles on Education and Schooling

Online Webinars to Learn from the Experts

Books, pamphlets and apraxia awareness