Apraxia of Speech (AOS) is a motor speech disorder that causes difficulties in using speech correctly and consistently. The brain helps us speak by creating rules and plans which enable us to use sequences of sounds to communicate. Apraxia occurs when something is preventing the brain from forming or carrying out these plans/rules. Apraxia in children is referred to as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). When apraxia occurs later in life, it is referred to as Acquired Apraxia of Speech.

What causes Apraxia?

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is present since birth. There may be multiple reasons CAS occurs, but specific causes are not yet well understood. Genetics may play a part in CAS; often children with CAS have a family history of language or speech delays or disorders.

Acquired Apraxia of Speech occurs after birth. AOS that is present after birth is caused by damage to the area of the brain responsible for speech. Causes include strokes, traumatic brain injuries, tumors, and infections or diseases.

What are the symptoms of Apraxia?

Children with CAS may not babble during infancy, may not use words until later than expected, only use a limited number of words, and/or only use a limited number of consonants and vowels. Later symptoms of Apraxia of Speech (AOS) include:

  • Difficulty imitating words
  • Does not always say words the same way each time
  • Difficulty saying vowel sounds correctly
  • Difficulty smoothly saying sounds, syllables, and words in a sequence
  • Appears to move around their tongue, lips, or jaw before they can make a sound (referred to as groping)

When is speech therapy recommended for Apraxia?

Therapy for apraxia is very important since it is not something that will go away by itself over time. For children, therapy is recommended if there is any delay in language development or difficulty with speech. An evaluation is conducted to determine if the diagnosis of apraxia is appropriate. For adults, therapy is recommended whenever there are concerns of changes in speech.

What does therapy for Apraxia involve?

People with apraxia of speech benefit the most from therapy when they can visit frequently; this would ideally consist of 30-minute sessions at least twice a week. Therapy for Apraxia focuses on helping the brain develop the motor plans needed to combine sounds into words. The speech-language pathologist will start with short words or simplified versions of words then build up to longer words as they become easier for the person with apraxia. Apraxia requires a lot of repetition of therapy targets to help the brain develop the motor plans needed for speech.