Overall, the public law for special education (IDEA) is clear that children with disabilities should receive their education in the “least restrictive environment” in which their special education goals and objectives can be met – with supportive and supplemental services. The least restrictive environment means that the child should be educated to the greatest extent possible with children who do not have disabilities.
At preschool ages, there are a variety of classroom placements that a child’s IEP team will consider. For example, a child with CAS may attend a regular, community preschool with supportive services (for example: speech therapy; classroom consultation, and assistants) to make the placement successful. Some other classrooms are designed for children with disabilities but also consciously include some children without disabilities. There are also specialized classrooms made up entirely of children with a mixture of disabilities. So, for example, such a classroom might include children with speech and language needs as well as children with autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental delays. Finally, in some locations there are preschool classrooms designed specifically for children with speech and/or language difficulties.
As the child approaches kindergarten, often placement decisions come into play again, and placement decisions will vary. There is not one placement that is successful just because a child has CAS. Individual needs must be the focus of the educational planning, with the understanding that the law requires that the child be placed in the least restrictive setting in which the child’s needs can be met with supportive and supplemental services.
Homeschooling. Some families chose to homeschool their child with apraxia of speech and possibly their other children as well. Each state and school district will vary concerning the type and availability of speech therapy and other services for families who chose not to enroll their child in public education. Some towns or cities have homeschool “coops” or groups that can include your child with special needs in activities.
Be on the Watch. While all children with CAS share common features in their speech production, they are also very different from one another. These differences extend to educational strengths and needs as well. Some research has suggested that children with CAS are at high risk for learning difficulties in phonemic awareness, reading, spelling, and written expression. Language based problems can also impact on the math area with word problems and spatial/positional language. Young children with CAS often have limited experience in verbally expressing sequences of events and retelling stories. As the children get older these skills become important in reading and written language. The art of conversation (i.e.: pragmatic language) that develops in most children over time, may also be lacking in children with a history of CAS. They may not have had opportunities to learn skills such as turn-taking, maintaining conversations, staying on topic, and other conversational skills.
It is frequently reported that even children who at preschool ages appeared to only have speech challenges may demonstrate additional educational, language, or learning issues as they get older. There are a number of reasons for this. First, most preschool age language tests are not sensitive enough to detect subtle or higher level language deficits. Secondly, as children get older the expectations of them increases in regards to information and language they are required to process. Instructions, verbal directions, and vocabulary become increasingly more lengthy and complex. It is for this reason that parents of children with apraxia of speech and professionals who provide services need to be vigilantly watchful for weaknesses in other aspects of language, communication or learning.
In summary, each child with CAS is different and demonstrates a unique profile of language and learning abilities as well as needs. Some children will thrive once their speech production improves. Other children will demonstrate additional needs of different types and to different degrees. Parents and professionals should be monitoring the child’s overall development in all of these related areas.