A Parent’s Guide to Apraxia
Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) can be a startling issue to confront at first. Everyone’s brain develops a muscle plan for the mouth, jaw, and tongue as they are learning to speak the language(s) they are raised around. In contrast to other speech impediments, the ability for the brain to perform this task isn’t weak but rather confused – there is an overall difficulty in coordinating the shapes and movements required to make the sounds. This can cause a distortion in how they pronounce vowels and consonants, distinct separations between syllables (within a single word or an entire sentence), or confusing similar sounding words, such as saying ‘batch’ instead of ‘patch’. This, however, is only a base line of examples, and can be confused with other language problems.
Symptoms to Look For
A lot of symptoms around CAS are present within other disorders, which can make it difficult to diagnose. Articulation or phonological disorder is one where the child has trouble learning to make the sounds, but not any difficulty coordinating them. This creates a lot of substitutions in speech, such as ‘fum’ for ‘thumb’. To help distinguish CAS for other disorders there are a series of characteristics to look out for, such as trouble moving from one sound to another, distorting vowels, stressing the incorrect part of a word, using equal emphasis on all parts of the word, trouble mimicking simple words, and inconsistency within errors made in a word. To properly evaluate the condition, a series of tests will need to be conducted to identify a pattern of problems along with all their medical and family history to help determine any causes.
How to Discover the Issue
Unfortunately, the cause of CAS isn’t always easy to determine as doctors haven’t found a clear issue in the brain from case to case. Neurological injuries, such as stroke, infections, or trauma, are one cause, but CAS can also form from a genetic disorder, syndrome, or metabolic reasons. While the miscoordination within the brain may always be present, there is a slue of treatment options to help those with CAS work around the errors.
Speech therapy helps by focusing the child’s attention on the sound and how it feels to make the sound. A speech-language pathologist, like those of us here at Speech & Occupational Therapy of North Texas, can guide a child through paced learning, speaking practice, and sound and movement exercises before the practice is continued at home. This helps children impart their skills on a daily basis in real-life situations. Your physician can suggest other helpful tools for your child’s specific needs. Don’t give up hope! If you want more information, please contact us. We are glad to help!