High School Senior Gives Voice to Children Struggling with Speech

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa –The governor signed a proclamation making May 14th Apraxia Awareness Day in Iowa.  Apraxia is a severe speech disorder affecting about one in 1,000. One Valley High School Senior has made it her mission to be a voice for kids struggling with their speech.

Reagan Crabtree is a busy high school senior. "On May 29th, I will graduate from high school."

It's a big milestone, especially considering the challenge she’s had to overcome. "I know what I want to say, but the whole thing wants to come out at once," said Reagan.

Reagan has Apraxia of speech. It’s a rare disorder that affects how words get from the brain to the mouth.

Amanda Allen said, "So the brain is unable to talk to the mouth in order to form words. They know exactly what they want to say, but they can't say it."

“So, they have to learn each little part of a word and work their way up to a word to two words to three words to sentences before they're able to really communicate with their peers," said Nancy Van Dyke.

Allen and Van Dyke are volunteer coordinators of this year's Walk for Apraxia. "I have a son that's five, he was diagnosed with Apraxia when he was three years old, and it's a very big struggle for him, and we like to raise awareness," said Allen.

"My daughter at 2, I realized something wasn't quite right. When she started she had less than ten words. The first year and a half was really hard. She did a lot of pointing and grunting."

The walk raises money for the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America. The goal is to raise $15,000 this year to help kids with the disorder. "They give back the money through iPads, communication devices. They do training for speech therapists to better be able to treat Apraxia. They also give grants for speech therapy," said Van Dyke.

Intense speech therapy helped both their kids make great progress. The walk also helps families meet those in a similar situation and allows them to see what's possible. "Reagan is a great inspiration for these kids. It's great also for us parents to see that the can go on and be successful and be able to reach whatever dream that they want to be someday," said Van Dyke.

Reagan dreams of being a journalist and plans to go to Des Moines Area Community College in Boone this fall.  "I'm really excited to move away and get the experience way from my friends and be on my own," she said.

The Walk for Apraxia is Saturday, May 14th at Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines. Registration is 8 a.m. Walk begins at 9 a.m. It costs $20 for adults and $10 for kids.