In childhood apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder, affecting the way a child’s body is able to produce speech. Children who have apraxia have difficulty planning and producing speech movements. The effect is that children with apraxia are often difficult to understand. Research indicates that children with apraxia are not able to form or access speech motor plans, which results in the lips, tongue, jaw, and soft palate being unable to sequence the movements required to produce clear speech. Apraxia differs from other motor speech disorders, because it is not caused by muscle weakness, or paralysis of any muscles. Children who have apraxia are typically able to understand language; the difficulty lies in producing words themselves.
Apraxia is a very rare speech disorder. It is a difficult disorder to understand, in part because of how complex it can be, and the fact that not all children exhibit the same symptoms. There are a few commonalities, which may indicate that your child is suffering from apraxia. These include:
Children with apraxia are typically late-to-talk, and it is one of the first signs of this speech disorder. It’s important to keep in mind that delayed speech may be due to many causes, only one of them being apraxia, and that apraxia is rare.
Response To Treatment
In some cases, diagnostic therapy is used in order to determine if apraxia is the cause of a late talker’s difficulty with speech. A Speech Language Pathologist will work with a late talker, using strategies for language stimulation in order to encourage a late talker to produce more words, and observe his or her responses to therapy in order to understand the cause.
Difficult to Understand
Many people unfamiliar with the child will have difficulty understanding the child when he or she speaks, due to the inconsistency and frequency of speech errors.
Inconsistent Speech Errors
Apraxia involves an inability of the mouth to produce speech sounds. Due to this cause, the same word may be mispronounced in several different ways. In addition, automatic speech and imitated speech such as counting, greetings, and the alphabet, will be less affected by apraxia than spontaneous speech. Speech errors will increase with multisyllabic words or phrases.
When assessing a child’s speech in order to determine if apraxia is present, a speech language pathologist will look for “groping” movements with the mouth or face, errors when producing vowel sounds, difficult transitions between words, inappropriate prosody, jaw sliding, and a large number of omission errors when speaking.
There is no universal treatment for apraxia, simply because different children exhibit apraxia in different ways. Speech-language pathologists will use a variety of different approaches and tactics in speech therapy to help your child overcome the apraxia. Typically, repetitive practice including cues to support motor learning, such as associating sounds with a gesture and touch cues are desirable. The speech language pathologist will work on expressive language and therapy readiness activities until the child will benefit from structured drill. Frequent sessions are advised, as is completing speech therapy “assignments” at home between sessions. In some cases, alternate forms of communication, such as sign language or picture symbols, may be encouraged, to help give the child a clear way to express himself or herself until the treatment has time to become effective.
Most parents are concerned about the long-term effects of apraxia, and have concerns that their child may never be easily understood by others. The success of treatment depends on the severity of the apraxia, along with whether or not other speech or language disorders are present. Typically speaking, however, with appropriate treatment, help at home, and reinforced lessons, children who suffer from apraxia can progress to effective communication.
The question of whether or not your child has apraxia is a complex one to answer, but if you are concerned about your child’s speech, you can contact Spark Talk Speech Therapy to inquire about an assessment. We can also provide information about the Child Disability Tax Credit if it’s applicable in your circumstance.