Roanoke County boy working to overcome speech disorder with positive attitude, humor

ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Many of us take for granted being able to speak and communicate clearly. But for one little boy in Roanoke County, those things don’t come easy.

“Seeing Dylan as a baby, he was walking within six months, he was born in June, December he was up and cruising around. So you saw that physical development was speedy,” Dylan’s father, Travis Townsend, said.

But at 2 years old, Dylan still wasn’t talking, which was concerning for Travis as a parent. That’s when the Townsends learned about apraxia.

“It’s not just a speech impediment, it’s an actual disconnection between the brain and the muscles of the mouth, and without the therapy, he would not develop the ability to talk,” Townsend said.

“I have a speaking problem, OK?” Dylan said when talking about how he describes his apraxia.

Dylan, now 9 years old, goes to speech therapy five times a week. His speech exercises are a little different than gym exercises. He works on strengthening the muscles in his mouth with Diane Shelton at school.

“We would take little Tic Tacs or Cheerios and we call in the magic spot, and he would just have to hold it up there. Speech therapists would understand. There’s pa-tu-ca where you’re moving the position from the lips to the magic spot to the throat. Pa-Tu-Ca. So we did a lot of drills,” Shelton said.

Dylan, who’s full of smiles and unafraid of talking, does worry his apraxia will get so bad it will be impossible to talk with other people. He talked about a time when he was bullied by other students.

“In second grade, some kids like called me Japanese, Spanish … So if there are any kids watching this right now, just ignore those bullies!” Dylan said.

And for Dylan, the thing he struggles with, is also the thing he says makes him special.

Apraxia is not something kids grow out of, but it can get better with the speech therapy. And Dylan's school speech therapist says his progress has come a very long way in the last two years.