Childhood Apraxia of Speech and Sensory Processing Disorder

This is the second in a series of posts about Speech and Language Therapy from Sarah Patton. The first post can be found here. The second post can be found here.

At around age two my daughter was diagnosed with Apraxia, a motor speech disorder. I soon learned that many children with Apraxia also have neurological soft signs and other associated disorders which could include low muscle tone (hypotonia), fine motor delays,  and sensory processing issues.    Claire had always been very hyper and never seemed to fear anything.  She climbed out of her crib at an early age, could dismantle anything, and never liked to sleep!  I thought this was just her personality and figured she had taken after her daddy.

Being the dutiful parent, I researched sensory processing disorder and realized Claire had many characteristics of sensory processing issues.   Her nervous system could not appropriately process the senses of touch, vision, hearing, smell and taste.  Many children react negatively to certain stimuli, but children with sensory processing issues have extreme reactions and can interfere with normal functioning.

You can find out more information about Sensory Processing Disorder by visiting

Claire seemed to have many characteristics of sensory processing disorder, so I scheduled an Occupational Therapy (OT) evaluation at a local hospital.  The OT determined that Claire did not have any sensory  issues or fine motor delays.  In my gut, I knew this therapist was mistaken.  Nonetheless, I trusted what the “experts” said, and delayed getting another OT evaluation for several months. In the meantime, Claire was getting therapy 2-3 times/ week for speech, so I felt that was enough therapy for a two year old.  She still made little speech progress and her behavior seemed more erratic.   Taking her out in public or playing with friends had become almost intolerable.

She was now 27 months old and had maybe 20 word approximations.  According to all the milestone charts, she was “supposed” to be putting two words together and forming sentences by now!  Our private speech-language pathologist, Janey Tolliver, kept insisting that I get another OT evaluation. So I scheduled an appointment with and OT who specialized in pediatric sensory issues at Marino Therapy Center in Knoxville.

I observed Claire’s evaluation and was fascinated to watch the tests they performed.   She did an inventory of Claire’s milestones and tested her reflexes.     The therapist determined that Claire DID have moderate sensory processing issues and fine motor delays and would need OT for at least a few months.   She also informed me that some of her infant primitive reflexes had not disappeared when they where supposed to.   The presence of these reflexes was affecting Claire’s fine and gross motor skills.   Children with sensory processing issues can be either a sensory-seeker or sensory-avoider.   Claire was a sensory-seeker!  A sensory-seeker  is hyperactive, always on the move,  and disorganized.   Finally, I had an answer to why my little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl was so rambunctious!  The Occupational Therapist gave me tons of information on sensory processing disorder and put Claire on a sensory diet.   Her diet would include pushing heavy items around in a cart, jumping on a trampoline, and carrying heavy items on her back among other activities.

Once we started OT, I began to understand how Occupational Therapy could help my daughter. She needed more sensory input to organize herself.    She seemed calmer and was able to more concentrate more easily.   The biggest surprise to me was her language explosion.  Her vocabulary took off!  I learned that her brain was not able to focus on learning language until her body was was getting its physical needs met.  She continued Occupational Therapy for over four months until she met most of her goals.    Our insurance partially paid for a few sessions, but were later denied because sensory processing disorder is not a recognized diagnosis.  The insurance company claimed that most of these exercises could be done at home.

The lesson I keep learning throughout this entire process is to trust my mommy instincts. Something wasn’t quite right and I kept pushing until I found the answers I needed.


Sarah Patton is a former high school guidance counselor and is now a stay-at-home mother of two young daughters.  Her daughter, Claire, has Apraxia, a motor speech sound disorder.  Sarah has extensive experience with advocating for her daughter’s need for speech services.

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  1. Janey Tolliver says:

    Very nicely done, Sarah. I am so proud of you. I know this article will help other moms and children.

  2. Janey, honestly I can’t thank you enough for your guidance! Olivia would not be where she is today without you!

  3. Melissa Zacherl says:

    Hi Sarah,

    My name is Melissa Zacherl. I am the parent who designed the “Do You Know Me?” flyer you have posted in this article. Just to let you know, the flyer is copyrighted material, so when using it, you cannot alter it in any way, and the copyright needs to be displayed. I created the flyer for everyone to use for free to help spread the word about Sensory Processing Disorder, but unfortunately, I have had many encounters with people wanting to claim it as their own and even make money off of it. :( For that reason, I am asking that when it is used (and please feel free to use it freely!) that you please use it in its entirety and please display the copyright. If you would like to contact me privately, please feel free to do so. Thank you!

  4. Always trust your mommy instincts. You can never EVER go wrong with them. Might have to tweak it every once in a while but that is what they are there for. Greet post.

  5. Would you mind telling me who you see at Marino? I’m a nurse at a local peds office. I’m being asked more and more often who to see for SPD and Id love to give a name of an experienced therapist! Thanks so much!

  6. Sarah Patton says:


    Thanks so much for replying. We saw Amy Miller at Marino- Cedar Bluff location, but she unfortunately is not working full-time hours now. I would recommend Colleen Dougherty. She did our re-evaluation in November and was really good. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

    Sarah Patton

  7. I looked closer at the poster, and my 16y/o daughter has displayed most all of the traits of the little girl. She doesn’t complain about things quite as bad now, but still does have some of the traits. She has had bouts of severe anxiety issues and now on medication. I would love to know if it is too late for any help for her.

  8. Sarah Patton says:

    @mary, yes, I would definitely talk to your doctor about your daughter’s issues. We all have sensory issues and some of us need help figuring it all out. If your doctor dismisses your concerns, you could always have a consult with an Occupational Therapist. Thanks for reading the post!

  9. I appreciate your article! My son was diagnosed with apraxia before age 2 and we have seen a Speech therapist 2x a week for 1 hr since August. We love our speech therapist. We were lucky to also get into TEIS and they have helped a ton with cost for therapy since our private insurance would not cover this cost.Since August his speech has exploded and now talks in sentences. I agree with always trusting your mommy gut. I am interested in learning of some websites or other articles on the sensory issues. My son doesnt necessarily show any on the picture but since we have started to potty train he will pee in potty but still poops in undies & his preschool teacher said it may be a sensory issue? I think it is great to tell your story. I know personally I have had many conversations with other concerned parents and child lack of speech. I tell them trust their gut and help direct them to the TEIS program that has helped us so much! God bless!

  10. Sarah, I’m so thankful for this post and you sharing your experience! I’m currently in the process of addressing some concerns I’ve noticed in my 2 1/2 year old for a few months now. I called our ped’s office and spoke with a nurse there- who said my daughter sounds exactly like hers (who has SPD).
    I’m just looking for some direction from here, and looking to network with other moms in the area who will share their experiences. Would your opinion be to just get a screening with an Occupational Therapist? I’d love some support as I’m seeking this out!

  11. Thank you for this post! My son just turned 3 and is suspected to have CAS and we have been working with early intervention. Recently, I have been suspecting some sensory issues, as well. My son displays most of the traits from the little girl in the diagram.
    I just made an appt with a nuero pediatrician today. Hopefully, we can get a DX soon.

  12. I read your post and would highly encourage you to have your daughter evaluated for autism, high funnctioning autism, or aspergers syndrome. My son has a similiar story and he was diagnosed on the spectrum at 2 and half. It will help you sooo much! thank you!

  13. Chelsea Rasmussen says:

    Thank you for posting this. My 25 month old is having her first speech evaluation today. I believe she has Childhood Apraxia with sensory integration disorder. Your post is very inspiring, and gives me hope.

  14. When someone writes an piece of writing he/she retains the image of a user in his/her
    mind that how a user can know it. Therefore that’s why this piece of writing is great. Thanks!

  15. Hi Sarah, the story you just describe is exactly my son’s. how amazing! Same months and experiences. Thanks for sharing with us.


  1. [...] I first started taking notice of G’s sensory issues, I found this handy diagram of some common sensory issues of a SPD [...]

  2. [...] I first started taking notice of G’s sensory issues, I found this handy diagram of some common sensory issues of a SPD [...]

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