Childhood Apraxia of Speech
Childhood apraxia of speech is a type of speech disorder. It's usually present from birth and a child with this condition has problems making sounds correctly and consistently.
In regular speech production the brain sends signals to the muscles in a person’s mouth in order to make accurate sounds. Apraxia is a neurological condition that disrupts this very process. The person often has the capacity to talk, but these signals between the brain and muscles are disrupted. Simply put, the brain knows what it wants to say, but cannot properly plan the required speech sound movements.
Childhood apraxia of speech is not the same as developmental delay of speech and language. A developmental delay is when a child follows a normal path of speech development, but at a relatively slower rate.
What Does Childhood Apraxia of Speech Look Like?
The signs of Childhood apraxia of speech may vary with a child’s age: they might range from mild to severe. A child with a mild case of apraxia of speech may only have trouble with a few of the speech sounds. Whereas, a child with very severe apraxia of speech may not be able to communicate very well with speech at all.
Some possible signs of Childhood Apraxia of speech include:
- Trouble putting sounds together in the correct order
- Inconsistent errors when repeating sounds (A child with apraxia may pronounce the same word differently each time they say it)
- Long pauses in between sounds
- Overall delayed language development
- Gross and fine motor delays
- Sensory processing difficulties
- Problems with reading, writing and spelling
- Chewing and swallowing difficulties
- Persistent or frequent regression in the number of words produced.
What Causes Childhood Apraxia of Speech?
The exact causes of childhood apraxia of speech are not yet known. Some researchers think that it is related to a child’s overall language development while, others think of it as a problem with the brain’s signals to the muscles needed for speech.
Childhood apraxia of speech may be a part of a larger disorder a child has, such as:
- Cerebral palsy
- Certain mitochondrial disorders
- Neuromuscular disorders
- Other intellectual disabilities
Some other possible causes include:
- Abnormalities in the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
- Genetic factors (The condition may run in families. Children with a family member with a communication disorder or a learning disability might be affected similarly).
- Stroke (caused by head injury or brain tumour)
Diagnosis and treatment of Apraxia
An accurate diagnosis of childhood apraxia of speech requires a comprehensive speech and language evaluation by an SLT. The SLT will evaluate your child's overall speech, language and communication skills in order to design a suitable treatment plan.
The type and duration of treatment will depend on your child’s level of need. Speech language therapy is the main treatment for apraxia of speech. An SLT often uses a variety of methods to treat Apraxia, such as:
- Articulation or phonological therapy
- Adapted cueing technique
- Orofacial myofunctional therapy
- Biofeedback treatments
- An informal sign language system
- Learning how to use a hearing aid and special programs on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.