Helping Kids Talk
Speech pathologist strikes a responsive chord.
"I specialize in children who can't speak at all or have very Gavi Isaacs, 5, of Oak Park practices both verbal and physical sequencing with speech pathologist Ruth
unintelligible speech," says Nancy Kaufman.
Judith Doner Berne
Special to the Jewish News
"Children can be success ul in talking if we
help them simplify the task."
ancy Kaufman was born with a
very good ear for music.
But a tonsillectomy she had as
a college student both changed her vocal
range and her plan to become a music
said to have apraxia of speech.
"Apraxia of speech is a specific speech
"I decided I would rather experience
disorder;' according to the Childhood
music for enjoyment but that my God-
Apraxia of Speech Association of North
given ear would be helpful as a speech
America. "To some degree or another,
pathologist:' the West Bloomfield resident
a child with the diagnosis of apraxia of
says, during an interview at her office in
speech has difficulty programming and
the Kaufman Children's Center (KCC) for
planning speech movements."
Speech, Language, Sensory Motor and
"Speaking is a fine motor skill;'
Social Connections in West Bloomfield.
Kaufman explains. "People think of
After 13 years of working in the
the meaning of speech rather than the
Beaumont Hospital Speech and Language
mechanics of talking. Mine is the only
Pathology Program, in 1989 she opened
approach that looks at speech as a motor
her own clinic and began developing a
behavior and takes it down into compo-
new approach to treatment that is now
nent parts and then builds it up again."
used in many places in the United States
She has designed the Kaufman Speech
Praxis Test for Children and created
"I specialize in children who can't speak brightly packaged boxed materials to help
at all or have very unintelligible speech:'
overcome apraxia and other speech dif-
says Kaufman, a native Metro Detroiter
ficulties, which she also markets to speech
who has a master's degree in speech-
language pathology from Wayne State
One of the kits, Sign and Say, uses sign
University in Detroit. They are generally
language as a conduit to verbal corn-
munication for non-verbal children with
autism. The kit illustrates signs for foods,
toys and activities that may be difficult
to find in sign-language dictionaries and
breakdowns for each target word.
Setting The Stage
Up to half of children with autism have
difficulty acquiring speech, accord-
ing to research presented at a National
Conference on Autism Spectrum
The Kaufman Speech Praxis Workout
Book is a compilation of treatment materi-
als and a home program for parents to use
with their children who cannot speak.
It's important to respond to a child's
efforts to talk, Kaufman says, but for
adults — teachers and parents — to
always model correctly. That means they
can respond to a child who is using his
or her best approximation of a word or
phrase, but the adult should employ the
"Children can be successful in talking if
we help them simplify the task:' she says.
Through a progression of lessons forti-
fied by parents at home, "a child learns
that it's much more efficient if I talk than
if I don't. We try to choose words that are
most important to their lives:'
"I lecture about these methods every
week:' Kaufman says, with upcoming
workshops scheduled for Grand Rapids,
South Bend, Norfolk, Philadelphia as well
as Ireland and England.
Three years ago, she and her husband,
attorney Joel Kaufman, built their own
building — 11,000 child-centered square
feet, including a gym for children who
would also benefit from occupational
therapy and sensory integration.
Even in a poor economy, her practice
has ballooned to employ 25 speech pathol-
ogists, occupational therapists and their
assistants who work with approximately
The fact that patients come from
throughout Michigan as well as other
states is good for both the Kaufman
Children's Center and the local economy.
Helping on page B2
October 30 • 2008