Learning to say “Maggie”

Due to her Apraxia condition, it has been challenging for Maggie to learn to say her name. We have been working on it for several months. Her name has two vowels, two consonants, and two syllables, so we have been building step by step her ability to name herself.

We started with teaching her a sign for her name, which she picked up and started using right away. It has greatly expanded her ability to communicate, knowing how to sign her own name. All of a sudden she could tell us what MAGGIE wanted, what MAGGIE felt, what had been done to MAGGIE by her sister, and that mommy should hold MAGGIE.

Next we started targeting the word Maggie through her Gemiini discreet video modeling program. I will have to write a whole post about Gemiini, but suffice it to say here that it is a discreet video modeling program based on the new, breakthrough science concept that seeing a word pronounced builds the same neural pathways as saying the word yourself. It has mainly been tested in autistic populations, but some believe it is effective for Apraxia as well.

An average child needs to hear a word said 40 to 70 times before they will say the word. Kids with apraxia need to hear it hundreds of times. This is not esaily done in day to day conversation. Geminii discreet video modeling gives us the ability to target specific words and load them into Maggie’s brain hundreds of times through brief daily sessions. Gemiini has thousands and thousands of recorded videos which focus directly on the mouth of the speaker, and I can build custom videos for Maggie using the exact sounds and words we are working on in speech therapy.

Some experts don’t believe Gemiini works with the Apraxia population–it is controversial, and not enough studies have been done on kids that ONLY have Apraxia without accompanying conditions like Autism or Downs Syndrome. All I can say is that we have seen results using Gemiini from the very first session Maggie watched, and we have consistently seen results when we target our Gemiini videos to enhance and support our current speech goals and practices.

Here is a short example of what she sees when she watches a Gemiini video:

Here is a video of the very first time she tried to say her name, back in July 2015, after two days of viewing “Maggie” Gemiini videos.

More practice saying Maggie, more weeks of Gemiini videos, practicing Maggie one syllable at a time, and eventually we had another breakthrough, where Maggie was finally able to say her name correctly when prompted, although inconsistently (videos from November 30, 2015).

This was also the first (and to date only) time she ever attempted a sentence–if you listen very carefully, you can hear that she is trying to say “Maggie is my name”!

A few days later she was getting a little faster and a little less choppy (December 8, 2015).

Inconsistency is one hallmark of Apraxia, however, as this video taken December 30, 2015 shows. We are still working on saying “Maggie”. She is capable of saying it but has not yet learned it to the point of motor memory. That means that when she refers to herself, or when she is asked to say “Maggie”, she still has to work very hard to do so and many times she is not able to correctly reproduce the sounds. She will need to keep practicing and practicing until it becomes natural, just as you and I would need to keep practicing to learn to play a song perfectly on the piano without really thinking about it. That is the nature of Apraxia. You will notice in this video that when trying to say Maggie she says “mommy” a couple of times. We had been working on learning to say “mommy” right before we started working on Maggie, and she had just finally learned mommy. So when trying to say “Maggie”, she accidentally says the recently practiced “mommy”.

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