You, and others around you, can’t begin to decipher what they mean or are intending to mean. Your child seems to understand language, but their sounds and syllables seem to be off. You consult a speech-language pathologist who uses the term “apraxia” as a possible reason for your child’s speech difficulties.
But What is Apraxia?
Apraxia is a motor speech disorder that affects how our body is able to produce speech. Motor speech disorders are neurological, meaning the brain has difficulty coordinating the different body parts needed to produce speech, like the tongue, lips or lower jaw. Because of this, children with apraxia struggle with sequencing and articulation when they communicate. Naturally, and unfortunately, children with apraxia can then be difficult to understand.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Apraxia?
Apraxia can be a perplexing disorder for parents because of how complex it is. Part of the confusion with the disorder is that not all children with apraxia will exhibit the same signs or symptoms. Symptoms can vary in their severity from mild to profound. The most common characteristics of apraxia include:
● Late Talking- Though this symptom can be indicative of many other speech or language disorders, if your baby doesn’t coo or babble, or if your toddler is considered a “late talker,” apraxia may be involved, and you may need to consult a speech-language pathologist.
● Articulatory Groping- This a searching or struggling behavior that a child tries with their tongue, lips, or lower jaw when they are trying to communicate. These attempts at coordinating speech may appear “off target” as well.
● Errors Are Inconsistent- Different kinds of errors will occur on the same word when your child repeats it over and over again.
● Imitated vs. Spontaneous Speech – Your child may have difficulty imitating a word or phrase on command but may be able to respond to social situations (greetings, terminations) or automatic speech, like counting, or singing the alphabet with greater ease.
How Do You Treat Apraxia?
If you have concerns that your child may suffer from apraxia, seek an evaluation by a professional speech-language pathologist. A speech-language pathologist may be able to rule out other speech disorders to determine if your child does have apraxia.
Of course, this will also help determine a course of treatment for your child as well. It is important to note that labels like “developmental apraxia of speech” or “childhood apraxia of speech” can be misleading. Apraxia is not a disorder that a child will outgrow. However; many children can become intelligible speakers, but it does take time and commitment from children, parents and a dedicated speech-language pathologist.
What’s important is that children with apraxia will benefit from a supportive environment, encouraging parents and passionate speech-language pathologist who will partner with them in their educational journey and help them feel positive as they work to improve their communication skills together!