I’m Thankful For You: The Founder of CASANA

(Editor’s Note: This article was provided by Laura Kay Smith and is part of Cooper’s, ‘I’m Thankful For You’ Campaign.)

This November I would like to thank Sharon Gretz, the founder of the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association.

When my child was diagnosed with apraxia, a rare and severe speech disorder in children, even as a speech/language pathologist, I felt lost.  I met Sharon at an apraxia conference and it changed my life.  Her love, caring, and guidance was instrumental in not only getting the help and proper help my daughter needed;  but she also helped provide me with resources and training to become an expert in the field.   Every time I think about her I could tear up, her impact meant that much to me.  I love her so much I wrote a tribute post to her titled, ‘Them some big holes to fill: A tribute to Sharon Gretz.’

Sharon’s ripple effect to the world of apraxia is unmeasurable, and I have always said I am so grateful there was a Sharon Gretz and her son Luke in this world.  Because of Sharon, I went on to be the walk coordinator for the Denver Walk for Apraxia, as I wanted to pay forward the kindness that she had shown to me.

What is Apraxia?

According to the American Speech/Language Hearing Association, “Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder. Children with CAS have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words. This is not because of muscle weakness or paralysis. The brain has problems planning to move the body parts (e.g., lips, jaw, tongue) needed for speech. The child knows what he or she wants to say, but his/her brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words.”  Unfortunately, many kids with apraxia don’t necessarily grow out of CAS as they develop, and as an SLP, I was acutely aware of these long term implications.

My daughter Ashlynn cooed but never really babbled.  She was behind on all of her developmental milestones and it was later discovered she has global motor planning issues referred to separately as Childhood Apraxia of Speech and Dyspraxia, both of which are not well known. Children with global motor planning difficulties many times have a co-morbidity of autism, or their motor planning difficulties are sometimes misdiagnosed as autism as was the case with actress Gage GoLightly.  In addition, many kids with apraxia may go on to have learning difficulties as well, and the fear for Ashlynn’s future sometimes would seem to paralyze me.

Ashlynn and actress Gage GoLightly

Ashlynn though is never paralyzed with fear.  She attacks each day with a smile, bravery, and a firm resolve to work hard and do her best.  She has always loved her therapies and to this day is the hardest working child I know.  When I watch her day by day attack every challenge, failing multiple times but still getting up and trying again; I realize I have no excuse to do the same.

I feel like Sharon has been with us every step of the way, cheering on my daughter and giving me unparalleled advice.  I just can’t say enough.

Thank You

Sharon personifies the quote from Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” She never wanted another mom to have to go through the pain, uncertainty, and quest for appropriate services she did, so she went on to found CASANA, and subsequently touched our lives when the time came.

Sharon, when I was floundering under water, you pulled me and countless others up for breath time, and time, and time again.  Eventually I found my footing on dry ground, and knowing I could never repay you, I resolved to work tirelessly for CASANA and for kids like mine who deserved a voice.   I will continue to do so, and pay it forward to every parent who crosses my path, because I know what it’s like to literally feel saved by one person who just took 5 minutes of their time.

You can follow Laura and Ashlynn’s journey at http://slpmommyofapraxia.com/. She is a wonderful resource!


You can still nominate the doctors, therapists, teachers, friends and family that make a difference in your special needs world. Click HERE to learn how!

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Hi, I'm Kate. I am the mother to a little boy with severe, nonverbal Autism. This is a glimpse into our heartwarming, sad, scary, funny, loving and secret world. Check out my video tab to hear me ramble about Autism.

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