When Danica’s family adopted her five years ago, they knew she was delayed. The reason, however, was unclear. They were given different reasons: environment, birth defect, failure to thrive, etc. When the family got back to the United States, their long journey with apraxia began.
“Danica not only has apraxia of speech, but she is considered [to have global apraxia],” her mother Deanna says. “For those who don’t know what that means, it is why Danica has difficulty saying words and has poor coordination. She needs extra time to process information. Danica has to work at each part of a movement to coordinate a complete task.”
When other kids might be playing, Danica is working hard to do things that many kids at her age might do naturally. “We do wheelbarrow walking and animal walks to encourage upper body weight bearing and activate muscles,” Deanna says. “We set up obstacle courses to help with lower and higher vision field, processing speed, motor functioning, alignment, and strength. There isn’t one part of her day that doesn’t involve some sort of speech practice.” Danica’s family works hard to keep her therapy engaging and creative, even fun. Even though it’s often hard, exhausting work, Danica does it every day and never complains. She has been working hard all summer, as well, to get ready for first grade.
The Pittsburgh Walk is a way to celebrate how far Danica has come with persistence, hard work, and determination, and that it’s okay for Danica to progress at her own pace. “Danica has made progress in the five years we have been working on speech, but it’s been a slow process,” Deanna says. “We’ve been down the road of frustration (several times), asking if we’re doing enough and comparing her path to others.” However, the Walk helps the family remember that apraxia IS a path – it’s a journey. “Some are going to get there before others, but as long as we continue forward, she’ll keep moving forward.”
This isn’t the first year that Danica and her family have walked, but it is the first year that they’ve had a team. Emily Dahlke – mother of apraxia star EJ, captain of Team EJ and top fundraiser of the 2016 Pittsburgh Walk for Apraxia – is a dear friend of Danica’s family and gave them the push they needed to start a team and share Danica’s journey. “I’ve never been embarrassed by Danica’s disability, but I’ve never publicized it. Emily and her family have always embraced her and have never treated her differently. She has brought me out of my shell, making me more comfortable acknowledging publicly what we deal with daily. Danica needs us to support her, and what better way than raising awareness about apraxia. We want the community to understand apraxia so that Danica is treated as a member of society and not looked at differently.”
Thank you, Danica’s Voice, for sharing your journey and showing us what it means to support Danica to find her voice and support others with apraxia by raising awareness. We can’t wait to see you next week at the 2017 Pittsburgh Walk for Apraxia!