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Apraxia Materials: Review by Donna Campos

Becoming Verbal with Childhood Apraxia (book)
Apraxia Uncovered (seminar on three audio CDs and book)
How to Stop Drooling (book)
How to Stop Thumbsucking (book)
Pam Marshalla
Marshalla Speech & Language
914 164th Street SE, #128
Mill Creek, WA 98012-6339

This review included several materials produced by speech-language pathologist Pam Marshalla. I will discuss each book separately and then offer a general opinion of all the materials.

Becoming Verbal with Childhood Apraxia is a softcover book of 109 pages, including nine chapters and a Glossary. Using Jean Piaget's observations and research into the way young children imitate, Pam Marshalla reveals that apraxic children cannot imitate. The book breaks down the process of imitative speech in children and the possible trouble areas for apraxic children. The goal is to help young children with severe apraxia, those without the ability to imitate specific words or sounds on demand, to begin to talk and to become more intelligible. She includes many ideas for encouraging imitative speech, from games and songs to creating an environment that will encourage speech for practice and improvement of imitation. The book will be helpful to parents and speech professionals who are assisting young children with limited or no speech, whether or not the child is formally diagnosed with apraxia. The author thoroughly explains terms like "vocal contagion," "vocal synchrony," and "motherese" while writing at a level easily understood by those of us who are not speech professionals. Not only does she include games and songs that are easily implemented, but she also suggests specific toys that will encourage vocalization. She explains the imitation development stages and details how to use sounds already present in a child's repertoire to stimulate imitation.

Apraxia Uncovered: Seven Stages of Phoneme Development is a book and audio seminar set. The softcover, glossy book has 160 pages, and the audio seminar is on three CDs packaged together in a single case. On the back of the case is a track breakdown for all three CDs divided by Stage and Action Skill. The audio seminar begins with simple definitions of various impairments, including apraxia (a lack of sound) and dysarthria (a distortion of sound). Marshalla consistently references the book as she talks through the specifics of all seven stages. She also takes the time to offer explanations in simpler terms after using the technical terminology. The tables in the book include sample words to increase phonological understanding, tips on posture and the formation of the mouth, and every aspect you can imagine. This in-depth product is filled with tremendous information for assisting children with speech difficulties. The entire audio seminar makes you feel like the speaker is sitting alongside you in your living room. For parents who rarely venture into the world of speech pathology, this audio seminar offers an opportunity to educate yourself thoroughly.

How to Stop Drooling is a 61-page book in a glossy soft cover. The book discusses reasons for drooling, both developmentally appropriate reasons and those more problematic. Marshalla offers activities and exercises to help minimize or eradicate drooling, and none of the activities require more than fifteen minutes to plan and execute. Most can be easily implemented during normal life. Sanitary procedures are included, as are encouraging words toward positive change and catchy songs to help motivate the child. The author stresses that not all cases can be controlled, but many will be if you take time to implement these simple techniques.

How to Stop Thumbsucking and Other Oral Habits is a softcover, glossy book of 79 pages. Beginning with six good reasons to stop, this book focuses on the elimination of thumbsucking, but much of the information can be applied to many other oral habits (e.g., the use of pacifiers, nail biting, and hair chewing). Foundational guidelines include treating thumb sucking as a behavior, being positive, being patient, and looking to your religion as it offers a set of rules to make life better. Marshalla recommends praying for change in the thumbsucking behavior, for the thumb sucker, and for others. The book offers a plan for setting goals and then implementing procedures to achieve those goals. There are great ideas on establishing routines that will help ensure success. She does call for firm rules, including punishment for not obeying the rules. One game, called "Graveyard," involves having children lie down in rows and try not to move; it may be deemed inappropriate for some families. She explains the use of disapproval and points out that children raised with no disapproval are being raised without accountability. The additional information lists great resources to assist throughout the process.

Regarding all the materials:
The Apraxia materials by Pam Marshalla are written in an incredibly understandable and straightforward style that keeps your attention as it educates you. Moving smoothly from one point to the next, the books offer simple things anyone can do with infants and toddlers to increase and improve overall speech production. For those of us with children who are speech delayed, her ideas are easy to understand and implement. I found simple things that I could change immediately and quickly saw results in our two-year-old and have continued to see improvement since reading her materials. Though I had never spent time truly noting the intonation, pitch, loudness, and vowel and consonant patterns my son utilizes, the author's straightforward information calmed any fears for my lack of ability in the area of speech development and encouraged me as I worked with my son. We have have been thrilled with the overall outcome her work is providing for our family. The games and tips offer a real opportunity for parents to assist in improving their children's speech patterns and their own understanding while doing so.

Pam Marshalla has opened a door for parents to enter into a deeper understanding of speech development. Though somewhat technical, the information was presented in a helpful style that left me feeling she truly wanted to help me help my child. I only wish I'd had this information a few years ago when we were struggling with our non-verbal three-year-old first diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Marshalla admits that some children will need to use an augmentative communication system (we used a Picture Exchange Communication system), but her assistance greatly increases your chances to improve communication verbally. Her tips mix play with drill in many instances. Since many homeschoolers already use this type of teaching method, it is easily implemented. The cost of the materials is reasonable when compared with the cost of private speech therapy, and the understanding parents will gain from these materials will more than justify the expense. Families who desire to more fully understand speech development speech therapy activities have an ally in Pam Marshalla and all of her materials.

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2007