Peabody-Burns 8-year-old’s growth inspires, encourages his mother
For Josh Hedrick, overcoming childhood speech apraxia is about perseverance.
The 8-year-old Peabody-Burns student works with the school’s speech pathologist three times a week and often uses a special app on his tablet when struggling with certain words.
Speech apraxia affects how messages are sent from a person’s brain to his or her mouth, according to American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
One method to get him speaking is having Josh creating his own bedtime stories instead of being read to by his parents.
“It’s helped because he’s had to be creative to communicate,” mother Emily Hedrick said.
“Often when he was really little he’d gesture, and you could almost play charades to guess what he was trying to tell you.”
Speech apraxia cannot be outgrown, according to ASHA, but a child’s speech can improve with enough work.
While Josh once heavily relied on his talking tool, Emily said it was a promising sign when he began needing it less frequently.
The talking tool makes the process easier because it allows him to make use of his interest in computers, Emily said.
In addition to his speech, Josh was born with reduced hearing function in one ear, Emily said.
“You see the child as a child, not that you see he needs a hearing aid, glasses, or a talking tool,” she said.
Emily got to see Josh’s improvement in the classroom firsthand this year, serving as his third-grade teacher.
She watched him go from being unwilling to read his stories to speaking in front of his peers.
“You always have a kid or two who is shy and does not want to read it,” she said. “I knew Josh would be one of those kids, but he’d gotten to the point where he would write a story and read it in front of them all. That was awesome.”
While Emily saw the developments as promising, she said it was difficult at times.
“The toughest part has been him being able to feel connected with his friends,” she said. “It’s hard when you can’t talk to somebody or don’t know if they’re going to make fun of you because you’re clapping to get their attention.”
Josh doesn’t have a specific goal in mind, but Emily said she hopes to see him continue to make progress until he can handle the communication requirements of any job.
“Every job you think about requires some talking, whether it’s answering a phone or communicating with others on a team,” she said. “That was my concern, was getting to the point where he could. Right now I’m just curious where he’s going to go.”