Apraxia of speech, also known as verbal apraxia or dyspraxia, is a speech disorder in which a child has trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently.
Childhood Apraxia of Speech is not due to weakness or paralysis of the speech muscles (the muscles of the face, tongue, and lips).
The severity of apraxia of speech can range from mild to severe.
What are the Symptoms of Speech Apraxia?
Children with developmental apraxia of speech generally understand language much better than they are able to use words to express themselves.
Some children with the disorder may also have other problems. These can include additional speech problems, such as dysarthria; language problems such as poor vocabulary, incorrect grammar, and difficulty in clearly organizing spoken information; problems with reading, writing, spelling, or math; coordination or motor-skill problems; and chewing and swallowing difficulties.
Severity of Speech Apraxia
The severity of both acquired and developmental apraxia of speech varies from person to person. Apraxia can be so mild that a person has trouble with very few speech sounds or only has occasional problems pronouncing words with many syllables.
In the most severe cases, a person may not be able to communicate effectively with speech, and may need the help of alternative or additional communication methods.
How is Speech Apraxia Diagnosed?
Your child will probably be seen by a speech-language pathologist for the diagnosis and treatment. There is no single factor or test that can be used to diagnose apraxia. In addition, speech-language experts do not agree about which specific symptoms are part of developmental apraxia of speech. The person making the diagnosis generally looks for the presence of some, or many, of a group of symptoms, including those described above. Ruling out other contributing factors, such as muscle weakness or language-comprehension problems, also helps with the diagnosis.
To diagnose developmental apraxia of speech, parents and professionals may need to observe a childs speech over a period of time. In formal testing for both acquired and developmental apraxia, the speech-language pathologist may ask the person to perform speech tasks such as repeating a particular word several times or repeating a list of words of increasing length (for example, love, loving, lovingly).
Treatment of Childhood Apraxia of Speech
If your child is diagnosed with developmental apraxia of speech, you should know that he or she will not outgrow the problem on their own; however, speech-language therapy is often helpful for children.
Speech-language pathologists use different approaches to treat apraxia of speech, and no single approach has been proven to be the most effective. Therapy is tailored to the individual and is designed to treat other speech or language problems that may occur together with apraxia. Each person responds differently to therapy, and some patients make more progress than others. People with apraxia of speech usually need frequent and intensive one-on-one therapy. Support and encouragement from family members and friends are also important.