If you come here often, you know that my daughter has limited verbal speech due to childhood apraxia of speech. Like any parent, I longed to hear her say the words "I love you." Sure, she could sign it in sign language and she could push the buttons on her talker to say it too. But I wanted to hear it from her own mouth and voice.
This summer I decided I would start to work on it causally during the day whenever it seemed like an appropriate time. I understood it would take repetition and practice in order for her brain and mouth to build a pathway to remember how to say it. So I took my time breaking it into chunks for her to repeat. I also know that Jaycee shuts down if she feels pressured to speak, so I didn't sit down and "work" with her. I just practiced it in natural situations.
I always started with, "I love you, Jaycee." This was a cue to her that I was expecting a response back.
Next, I said, "Jaycee, say love (pause) you (pause) mama."
Jaycee could already say "mama," so at first all she said was mama back. That was what I expected. If she would have said love or you the first few times I would have been completely shocked. But, we kept working.
I always said my phrase cue first of "I love you, Jaycee" then led her through the other words. I praised any attempt even if all she said was mama.
Eventually, Jaycee started to make vowel noises for love. It sounded like "uh" (nothing for you) "mama." It was exciting to see progress. I never expected her to say love correctly because I have never heard her make and L or a V sound. With apraxia, it is very important to take any approximations of words and work towards improving those attempts later.
Finally, after a few months. I said, "I love you, Jaycee." To which she replied, "uh oo mama." She did it! It was amazing! It was the best she could do, and it was great! The day she said it, we practiced it naturally after a hug or a kiss to build repetition to help her remember how to say it.
After a few successful times, I showed my husband, Jason. He was impressed. He said, "Jaycee, I love you." She didn't say anything back to him as I expected. He changed the phrase cue and he was changing mama to dada. That's too many changes for someone with severe apraxia.
I taught him to say the phrase cue first. Then, he broke up "love you dada" just like I did. Because she already had a motor plan set for love you, it didn't take her long to learn this new phrase.
Now, if we say "I love you, Jaycee" she can say "uh oo mama" or "uh oo dada" back to us. She has yet to say it first as she still depends on our phrase cue but I'm sure in time she will say it to us spontaneously.
It's been a big accomplishment for her, and we are proud of what she has learned to do. If there was ever any doubt, now I know that she loves me!