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North Hills Monthly

CASANA Plays Major Role for Kids with Apraxia of Speech

Jul 30, 2015 01:33PM ● By North Hills Monthly magazine
By Rochelle Haitz

Sharon Gretz’s son was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) 20 years ago. Along with the struggle her son was experiencing and the helplessness that she felt due to her lack of knowledge about apraxia, she became motivated to make a difference. While there were not many people or organizations that she could turn to in the ‘90s to explain or treat this little-known speech disorder, she found a beacon of hope in her son’s therapist, David Hammer.

In 1999, Gretz, along with the assistance of other local Pittsburgh parents, founded the nonprofit Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA), of which Hammer is now the director of professional development and speech services.

“Childhood Apraxia of Speech is a speech disorder that involves the planning of movements that underline speech,” explained Gretz of the neurologically based communication disorder affecting speech production skills. “A child can’t translate the sound sequences they want to say into speech movements to communicate intelligibly. They don’t have the ability to plan the movements associated with the words, phrases or sentences they want to say.”

Statistically, CAS is rare in comparison to other childhood speech disorders, affecting approximately one in every 1,000 kids, but studies have shown that it is commonly misdiagnosed in children, which prevents them from receiving proper treatment or therapy. If a parent feels that his or her child is not progressing as he or she should with language or tends to grope for words to say, a doctor can refer the child to a licensed speech language pathologist (SLP) or an early intervention program.

As the only national nonprofit dedicated exclusively to children with apraxia, CASANA’s main goal is to raise awareness and educate families and professionals about CAS. They offer top-notch programs to individuals and the public, and sponsor workshops and conferences throughout the year.

Jaime Greenwood’s young son, Landon, was diagnosed with CAS and found support with Hammer’s professional expertise. “At age 4, Landon had unlocked his voice to be able to form words to let the world know what he wanted to say,” Greenwood shared. “Without CASANA and the services they provide to families like ours, I believe that there would be many children in our society today that would still not be able to communicate with others and their families.”

Every other year, CASANA selectively chooses a group of therapists from around the globe to take part in Apraxia Boot Camp, a free, four-day intensive training institute held at Duquesne University’s Pathology Department. The therapists meet with a wide selection of speech language pathologists and faculty members to learn how to improve their assessment and diagnostic skills in order to become experts in a field where evaluations are normally very complicated. CASANA is also an approved provider of continuing education credits through the American Speech Language Hearing Association, and speech language providers can access live monthly recorded webinars on their website.

Sara Gibson, a parent of a CAS child, speaks highly of the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit. She said, “The people of CASANA helped my daughter find her voice and because of that she can say, “Thank you, CASANA!”

Walk for Children with Apraxia
Each year, CASANA’s main fundraiser, Walk for Children with Apraxia, gains a lot of national and local participation and public support. This year’s walk is scheduled to take place in September, with all proceeds benefiting CASANA’s programs. To register, visit
  • Sunday, September 13, 2015
  • Registration begins at 9 a.m.; walk begins at 10 a.m.
  • North Park Boathouse