speech apraxia

Speech Apraxia: A Poorly Understood Ailment That Can Spell Serious Trouble

What is Apraxia?

Unfortunately, childhood apraxia is a neurological condition that is poorly understood. It is characterized by a child’s difficulty in making certain motor movements despite having normal muscles.

Regarding developmental speech apraxia, the child has trouble moving her mouth and tongue to articulate sound. This happens even though the child wants to speak and his mouth and tongue muscles which are perfectly capable of doing so.

Children who have apraxia have been saddled with this debilitating condition from birth and find it difficult if not impossible to form words or even sounds. But since this inability isn’t a cognitive defect per se, these same children can often understand speech no less than other children.

Are Speech Apraxia and Aphasia the Same Thing?

There is another communication disorder which is at times confused with Speech Apraxia. This other disorder is known as Aphasia. Aphasia is when a person has problems in understanding or using words. The core of the problem is the inability to express the thought, not the inability to make those physical movements necessary for speech.

These two disorders, Speech Apraxia and Aphasia are sometimes confused partially because two disorders can occur together. To the untrained eye, the speaker is unable to communicate. “Why” is a question that he probably doesn’t bother to ask.

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What are Some of the Symptoms of Speech Apraxia?

  • There is little babbling during infancy
  • The child makes repeated attempts to pronounce words
  • When speaking the child will distort vowel sounds
  • There is a painful struggle or groping to make words
  • Long or complex words just can’t be said
  • The child seems to prefer to communicate non-verbally too often
  • The stresses or inflections on certain words or sounds is inaccurate
  • The child is inconsistent in pronouncing certain sounds or words
  • Consonants are omitted at either the end or beginning of words
  • Unable to string together syllables appropriately to make words

Developmental Apraxia often occurs in conjunction with other cognitive or language deficits such as:

  • Being clumsy
  • Having problems with grammar
  • Fine motor skills and coordination problems
  • Experiencing difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Age-inappropriate vocabulary limitations

What Do Treatments for Speech Apraxia Focus On?

Developmental Speech Apraxia generally is not resolved without treatment. The treatment approaches and their effectiveness can vary from one child to the next. It is often prescribed meet with an SLP up to five times weekly.  In addition, the child may need time to practice the skills they are learning with their parents. Exercises often include:

  • Practicing repeatedly forming and pronouncing words and sounds
  • Working with melodies and rhythms
  • Making sounds into a mirror to see what it looks like
  • Touching one’s face while talking to see what it feels like
  • Sign language- to practice the required movements with their mouths

While Speech Apraxia is a very serious condition, the good news is that with the correct treatment that is diligently followed, the majority of children will see tremendous improvement. Not only that but studies have shown that many will completely recover.

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