Monroe teacher’s nonprofit speaks volumes for kids Published: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 8:43 a.m. CDT


HINSDALE – The silence finally is being lifted in regards to what people know about Childhood Apraxia of Speech, and that’s helping children – and their parents – find their voice.

“When you tell people it’s Apraxia, they’re like, ‘What?’” said Barbara Matt, a third-grade teacher at Monroe School in Hinsdale who had two children diagnosed with CAS at the ages of 2 and 5. “Knowing it’s being recognized makes it real.”

CAS is a motor speech disorder causing children to have problems articulating sounds, syllables and words because the brain has problems moving the body parts needed for speech.

It’s unclear how many children are diagnosed with CAS, but studies show it’s on the rise, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

“They are typical boys with video games, they’re all involved in Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, they like to play outside,” said the Westmont resident. “Just typical boy stuff. LEGOs is a big hit in our house.”

One cause of CAS is genetics, which is what Matt believes was the cause with her children. Some of the symptoms, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, include an infant not babbling, first words being late, only a few different consonant and vowel sounds being used and the child showing long pauses between sounds.

“You can’t really diagnose until they’re 3, and then once we got into the process with our private therapist, they confirmed that it was CAS,” Matt said.

At the time of diagnosis, Matt said there was little known about CAS, but more children are being diagnosed with it.

It’s this fear of the unknown that Matt wanted to help others with. A little more than a year ago, Matt and other parents started a nonprofit called The Apraxia Connection to educate others and help parents.

“It was parents getting together and sharing stories, sharing treatment and just having that support system, which is key,” she said.

The nonprofit has brought in guest speakers, created a grant, holds monthly meetings and recently had a picnic. Today, The Apraxia Connection has about 500 members and May 14 has been proclaimed as Apraxia Awareness Day by Congress and Illinois.

On Oct. 14, the fifth annual Walk for Children with Apraxia of Speech will be at Ty Warner Park in Westmont to raise awareness, but also to bring people together.

“We want that whole feeling of you’re not in this alone,” she said.

Today, her kids are 9 
and 7 years old, and Matt said both of them are doing well.

“Today my son went over to a neighbor, and she’s like, ‘Oh my God, his speech exploded this year; like, I can totally understand him now,’” she said.