What is Apraxia?
Parents of children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) commonly say things like “Nobody can understand my child,” “He knows what he wants to say but cannot get it out,” or “Sometimes they can say the word and other times they can’t.” Sometimes referred to as dyspraxia, developmental verbal dyspraxia, or speech apraxia, Childhood Apraxia of Speech is so important to catch and treat early!
What is Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)?
CAS is characterized by challenges with planning the motor movements needed for speech. This results in speech that is very difficult to understand. One way to think about this is to compare talking to building a house. When you build a house, you need a blueprint first. Without a blueprint, your house might not end up how you want it to. Similarly, when you are talking, the muscles needed for speech need a plan first. Apraxia impacts the ability of your brain to send that plan to your muscles, resulting in speech sounding jumbled and hard for others to understand.
Childhood apraxia of speech first becomes apparent when a young child is learning how to talk. A child with CAS knows what they want to say, but their brain has difficulty telling the mouth muscles how to move in order to say what they want. Children with CAS have difficulty with the speed, accuracy, and timing of movement sequences needed for producing speech.
In most cases, the cause is unknown. CAS is not something that a child will outgrow and treatment is required to make progress. A speech-language pathologist can diagnose and help treat the condition. With treatment, most children make progress in improving their speech.
Signs Your Child May Have CAS
Not all children with CAS have the same symptoms and there is no one sign that indicates apraxia. If your child shows some of the signs listed below, consider speaking to your pediatrician or contacting us for an evaluation.
In very young children:
Do not coo or babble as an infant
First words are late
Only able to say a few different sounds
Difficulty combining sounds
The child understands much more language than they can produce
In older children:
Make inconsistent speech sound errors, such as having difficulty saying a sound or word they have previously been able to say correctly
Is difficult to understand
Speech sounds slow and effortful and they may make awkward speech movements
Longer words and sentences are more difficult to produce than shorter words and phrases
Odd or “robot-like” speech due to monotone speech and unusual pauses while speaking
Anxiety may negatively impact a child’s speech quality
Children with CAS may have other problems, including:
Difficulty with fine motor skills
Delayed language development
Problems with reading, spelling, and writing
Diagnosis and Treatment
Since CAS is a speech-sound disorder, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are the most qualified professionals to diagnose and treat it. An accurate diagnosis requires a comprehensive speech and language evaluation. Children with apraxia require specialized treatment based on the principals of motor learning. The SLPs at Talk Time will develop a customized evidence-based treatment plan for each child. This will include targeting correct sound production in a fun play setting and ideas for the parent to incorporate at home.