Speech disorder challenging for family

NANAIMO – Mom aims to raise awareness, money through walk.

Dawn Tuokko and her son Tristan

Tristan Tuokko is your average four-year-old boy in almost every respect.

He loves to do active things like riding his bicycle and playing baseball, plays video games and tries to do everything for himself without getting any help from mom.

But the difference is apparent when Tristan starts talking. Some of the words are recognizable; others not.

“Sometimes it’s just complete jargon, it’s babble,” said Dawn Tuokko, Tristan’s mom.

At age two, Tristan was diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech, a motor speech disorder in which the child has trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently.

Childhood apraxia of speech is present from birth – at 18 months, a public health nurse encouraged Tuokko to take her son to a speech language pathologist because Tristan was not making any sounds she could recognize – and the cause or causes are unknown.

The problem is not weak muscles in the mouth; the brain has difficulty planning and producing the series of movements of the tongue, lips, jaw and palate that are necessary for intelligible speech.

“His brain knows everything – his mouth can’t say it,” said Tuokko.

As a result, Tristan has problems with sounds, syllables and general words. His words sometimes come out garbled – “yoking” instead of “joking” – or completely unintelligible.

Intensive intervention is required and Tristan sees a speech-language pathologist with the Vancouver Island Health Authority once a week, who assigns work for Tuokko to do with her son at home every day.

But she struggled to get her son interested in the work and the family cannot afford to get him any extra help.

Last year, Tuokko came across the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America’s iPads for Apraxia project, which gave out 75 iPads last fall. The family was one of the program’s successful applicants and Tristan received his iPad just before Christmas.

Since Tristan started using the device, which has about 10 different speech development programs on it, she’s noticed an improvement in his communication skills, largely because he has been more willing to sit down with her and do an hour of work each day.

She also worries less about sending him to kindergarten next year because the iPad has a program that will help him communicate with others when he is struggling.

To show thanks and help bring the iPad program to other families, Tuokko wants to organize a fundraising walk in July for the non-profit, U.S.-based association and she is looking for other families dealing with apraxia in the community, individuals willing to help organize the walk and corporate sponsorships and donations.

Anyone interested in helping out or simply connecting with Tuokko can e-mail her at citydawn@shaw.ca.

Kathy Armstrong, speech and language therapy department leader at the Nanaimo Child Development Centre, said children never outgrow apraxia of speech, but it does improve as they get older with treatment and anything that motivates them to work on their speech is positive.

“Anything that helps motivate a child to practise speech sounds is great,” she said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Nanaimo to hold invasive plant ‘drop zone’ event

Public invited to bring invasive plants to Bowen Park’s upper picnic shelter Saturday, May 30

International students ‘biggest unknown’ in Nanaimo school district’s budget planning

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ board will look at preliminary 2020-21 budget this week

Car cruise in Nanaimo lifts seniors’ spirits during pandemic

Cars 4 COVID includes Nanaimo Seniors Village in its route

Health authority extends administrator’s mandate at Nanaimo seniors home

Island Health says ‘significant progress’ being made at Nanaimo Seniors Village

Petition underway to get RDN to improve Sandpiper water quality

Campaign urges regional district to make issue a priority

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Family pledges to match up to $50,000 in donations to Chemainus Theatre fund

Donald Hilton and Joyce Hilton helping theatre through a time of COVID-19 cancellations

Nanaimo school district planning to demolish building on Selby Street

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools estimates tearing down building will cost $900,000

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

VIU online cooking show keeping students connected during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Culture Kitchen’ features students making dishes from their home countries

Rail foundation delivers donations to Island food banks

ICF shares $14,000 among seven food banks, including Nanaimo’s Loaves and Fishes

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Most Read