Apraxia of speech is also often referred to as AOS, CAS, or verbal apraxia, and it is defined as a speech sound disorder that affects an individual’s ability to take conscious speech plans and translate them into motor plans. This typically results in significant communication challenges and limited speech ability. By definition, AOS affects volitional (meaning willful or purposeful) movement patterns. However, AOS also commonly affects automatic speech.
Individuals with apraxia of speech usually have difficulty connecting speech-related messages from the brain to the articulators (mouth, jaw, tongue, and lips.) Acquired apraxia of speech involves the loss of prior speech skills resulting from a traumatic brain injury such as a progressive illness or stroke.
Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), also known as developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD) and developmental apraxia of speech (DAS), is defined as the inability to engage in motor planning to perform the necessary movements for speech during the language learning process. While the causes of acquired apraxia of speech and CAS differ significantly, the primary characteristics and treatments are quite similar. For both conditions, the most important form of treatment is speech therapy.
If you or a loved one is facing challenges related to communication, speech therapy can help. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!
What are the Symptoms of Verbal Apraxia of Speech?
Apraxia of speech (AOS) is a neurological communication disorder that affects the motor programming system required for speech production. Individuals with AOS typically display difficulty in speech production, particularly with forming and sequencing sounds.
In cases of AOS, the individual does not have a language deficiency; they have difficulty producing language in an understandable manner. The individual knows precisely what they want to say, but they have disruptions in the area of the brain that is responsible for sending the signal for the specific movement to the muscle. Individuals with acquired AOS (meaning the AOS was caused by a specific condition) often make errors related to the characteristics of articulation and prosody (specifically rhythm, stress, or intonation.)
Some of the most common symptoms of AOS include:
Effortful Trial and Error with Groping – Groping occurs when the mouth is searching for the position required to produce a sound. When this process of trial and error occurs, certain sounds may be held longer, repeated, or silently voiced.
Self-Correction of Errors – Most individuals with AOS are aware of their speech errors and will frequently attempt to correct the errors themselves. This can result in distorted consonants, vowels, and sound substitutions. Individuals with AOS commonly have a much better comprehension of speech than they can express.
Abnormal Stress, Rhythm, Intonation – Individuals with AOS exhibit errors relating to prosody (patterns of stress, intonation, and rhythm.) These errors often include irregular pace, pitch, and rhythm. This impairment of prosody causes speech to be either too fast or slow and have many pauses. They may also incorrectly stress syllables and speak in a monotone. Because of this, their speech may be described as ‘robotic’.
Inconsistent Articulation Errors on the Same Words and Sounds – When an individual with AOS is producing the same words, phrases, or sentences in various instances, they often have difficulty using and maintaining the same articulation previously used for that same phrase or sentence. This means that the frequency and amount of these errors can vary day to day, and the individual may even appear to ‘lose’ specific abilities that they previously had mastered.
Difficulty Initiating Speech – Initiating and producing speech often becomes difficult in individuals with AOS, which can result in a variety of speech errors. Errors relating to the completion of a speech movement may increase as the length of the words, phrases, or sentences increases. Because multisyllabic words are particularly difficult, individuals with AOS will often use simple syllables and a limited range of vowels and consonants.
If you, your child, or a loved one is struggling to communicate due to apraxia of some kind, getting support from a speech therapist begins by scheduling your free introductory call today!
Will a Child with Speech Apraxia Ever Speak Normally?
In many cases, children with CAS (childhood apraxia of speech) will ultimately achieve normal speech; however, some do not. It can be difficult to predict which children will achieve normal speech by the time they reach adulthood and which are unlikely to do so. Some factors (such as age and other conditions that may affect speech, etc.) are good indicators that speech and language pathologists can use to help identify how much progress and improvement is possible.
Is Verbal Apraxia Curable?
While verbal apraxia is considered to be an incurable, lifelong condition, the symptoms and challenges related to it can be effectively managed and, in some cases, eliminated. Speech therapy offers the best outcome for apraxia of speech, and frequent sessions are usually recommended.
How do you Treat Verbal Dyspraxia?
Children with verbal dyspraxia will require speech therapy for treatment, and progress is typically relatively slow. They will need regular, direct therapy, and some might use different methods of communication, such as sign language or special devices that can be programmed to speak for them.
The progress that children with dyspraxia make varies significantly from child to child. Research has shown that the majority of children will learn to speak more clearly with appropriate help and support. The degree and rate of progress that a child makes will depend on multiple factors such as how severe their dyspraxia is, whether they have any other medical or developmental conditions, their age, and the amount of opportunities to work on and practice their communication skills.
What is the Best Treatment for Apraxia of Speech?
Whether developmental or acquired, and whether it is a child, teenager, or adult who needs support, time with an experienced and knowledgeable speech-language pathologist is the best treatment. Speech therapists often use a variety of cues and methods in speech therapy. Each treatment plan is carefully designed to meet the unique needs of each individual, and the plan will also be designed to fit with the specific learning style and abilities.
The speech-language pathologist may also touch the individual’s face as they make certain sounds or syllables to demonstrate proper placement and mouth shape.
In general, there is no single speech therapy approach that is most effective for treating apraxia of speech; however, some of the most important principles of speech therapy for CAS are:
- Speech Drills
- Sound and Movement Exercises
- Speaking Practice
- Vowel Practice
- Paced Learning
Whether you are an adult who is struggling to communicate due to acquired apraxia of speech or your child needs support for childhood apraxia of speech, speech therapy is an essential resource. Don’t wait to get started; schedule your free introductory call today!