A Revelation: Thoughts on Allison, Apraxia and Altar Serving

Ally the altar server

Watching Allison at church yesterday and talking to Chris about it inspired me to write this post today.

Allison recently started as an altar server at our church. She really wanted to do it. I’ve been watching with amazement. She’s come so far. Let me explain.

When Allison was 2, she was diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech. Haven’t heard of it? Most people haven’t. Apraxia is a (purportedly) neurologic disorder that impacts the ability to speak clearly or even to speak at all. Kids who get therapy early on and have good family support usually end up being able to talk. The outcome of kids who don’t get this kind of therapy and attention is not good, sadly. After years of speech and other therapies and a lot of very hard work on her part, Ally’s speech is perfect. We are grateful.

For a long time, we were focused only on her speech. Would she talk? Would people be able to understand her? Would her speech be slurred? Odd? Allison turned out to be a very determined little girl. Even at age 2, she tried hard and rarely complained. By Kindergarten, her speech was “normal.” It took us time to realize that apraxia doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It is not neatly packaged. After her speech resolved, there were still things to work on. With language. And handwriting. Following multi-step directions. Working on sensory issues to get her to eat more than french fries. And attention, let’s not forget about that. It’s been a long road … and we are not done yet.

There’s more to her than this, though. Besides being determined, Ally is smart. And sweet. And caring. She gives school her all, every day. She’s delightfully quirky.

She has been taking this altar server job very seriously, I can tell. She knows that people are counting on her. She practically beams during mass.

“Such a confident girl!” someone said to me yesterday.

“How brave of her to stand in front of the whole parish!”

“Look at her up there!”

We are so proud. And SHE is so proud of herself. Here, she is a leader. Here, she is not always playing catch-up. She is serving others, yes, but from the experience, she is receiving so much more. It’s a revelation (pun intended).

Have a comment? As always, I’d love to hear from you!


11 thoughts on “A Revelation: Thoughts on Allison, Apraxia and Altar Serving

    • I was hoping that it would! There is another side, there really is. I want to hear how everything went this summer! I will go check out your blog post now, too!

  1. Our son is also an alter server for our local church. His speech is wonderful now a long way from when he used his AAC speaking device to fix break downs in communications. Funny the last time he served he started to tell Father Bob a story about the big fish he caught……When Father Bob was washing his hands…..I could see them speaking to each other and saw Father Bob chuckle. It wasn’t till after Mass when I over heard him answering a question on what they were speaking about. I told Father Bob I would speak to him…………he said no it is OK. Not sure if Father Bob really knows how far our son has come. Or how my prayers have been answered………..I did remind our son that Father Bob has prayers he needs to say when he is doing certain things on the Alter. He just smiled. I pray all the time that every child will find their voice………peace M-C

    • What a great story, M-C! When our kids our little, it is hard to know how it will all turn out; and when it does and they become effective talkers, it changes us, doesn’t it? I’ll never take the ability to talk for granted again, that is for sure. I hope for the same, that all children find their voice. I have been fortunate enough to have met a few people in my area dealing with apraxia and hope that I have helped them, at least a little. I am so glad that your son is doing well. And how great that he is an altar server, too! Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  2. Susan, I never realized how much we and our kids have in common. Our daughter was diagnosed with Sensory Process Disorder when she was a baby and beginning to walk. You are right to say everything is “not neatly packaged”. It is a multi-layered disorder that effects the entire body. Somehow through all the therapy sessions (6+years for us), set backs, things that are not considered “normal” by social standard means… these amazing little creatures adapt, overcome and succeed! And yes they are quirky, creative, imaginative, inquisitive, free-spirits. And we as loving parents let them be what they need to be.

    • Wow. I had no idea. We definitely have much in common! While Allison does not have an SPD diagnosis, it is well-known in the apraxia community that elements of SPD are entwined with apraxia. We have seen this firsthand. You know, when we started this journey 7 years ago, we felt very alone. But as time has worn on, I’ve realized that there are so many kids with these quirks (for lack of a better word). So many. Our families are fortunate in that we caught it early and started interventions early. I am so thankful for this. We should talk more sometime! And thank you for sharing. I loved your comments:-).

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