What Is Apraxia of Speech?

Reviewed on 3/26/2021
Acquired apraxia of speech can affect someone at any age although it most typically occurs in adults.
Acquired apraxia of speech can affect someone at any age although it most typically occurs in adults.

Apraxia of speech (AOS) is a poorly understood neurological condition that causes problems in a child’s or an adult’s ability to speak properly.

Depending on the cause, there are two main types of apraxia of speech:

  • Acquired apraxia of speech
  • Childhood apraxia of speech

Acquired apraxia of speech

Acquired apraxia of speech can affect someone at any age although it most typically occurs in adults. It is caused by injury to that part of the brain that is involved in speech and language processing. It may result from a head injury, stroke, or tumor. Acquired AOS may occur together with other conditions, such as dysarthria and aphasia.

Childhood apraxia of speech

Childhood apraxia of speech is present from birth. Doctors are yet to find out what exactly causes the condition. No evidence of changes in the brain has been identified on imaging studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan, that point toward apraxia of speech. There is a possibility that the condition may be genetic. Children with apraxia of speech most often have a family member with a learning disability or communication disorder.

What are the early signs and symptoms of apraxia of speech?

The early signs of childhood apraxia of speech are usually noticed between 18 months and 2 years. However, it becomes more noticeable between the ages of 2-4 years when the child can speak new words. The early signs may include:

  • Delay in speaking the first words
  • Use of a limited number of spoken words
  • Separation of syllables in or between words
  • Forming only a few consonants or vowel sounds

Other signs that may become more pronounced (as the child grows) include:

  • Putting the stress on the wrong syllable or word (saying BUH-nan-uh or BUH-NAN-UH instead of buh-NAN-uh)
  • Saying the same words in different ways each time (no consistency in saying the word the in the same way)
  • Change in the sounding of words
  • Difficulty imitating simple words
  • Difficulty in moving from one syllable or words to another
  • Shorter words are easy to pronounce than longer words
  • Deleting the last consonants while pronouncing some words (saying “duh” instead of “duck”)
  • Attempting to use the correct vowel, but saying it incorrectly (vowel distortions)
  • Simplifying the word while speaking (such as saying”‘tring” instead of “string”)
  • Putting a pause between syllables
  • Inconsistent voicing errors (such as saying "down" instead of "town," or “pie” instead of “bye”)

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Can apraxia of speech be cured?

Apraxia of speech may get cured on its own in acquired cases. This is known as spontaneous recovery. However, childhood apraxia of speech does not go away without treatment. They need the assistance of a speech-language pathologist to learn speech-language skills.

There is no single program in speech-language therapy that fits all children with apraxia of speech. Each program prepared by the speech-language pathologist is tailored to the child’s needs. Also, the treatment considers other problems that the child is suffering from along with the apraxia of speech. The therapy is given on a one-on-one basis as group therapies do not work effectively.

In severe cases, children with apraxia of speech may need alternative channels to express themselves. These include the use of books with pictures or electronic devices, such as mobile phones or tablets, to produce sound and convey what they want to say.

Not all children with apraxia of speech progress at the same speed. Some may learn speech therapy and speech-language skills quickly whereas others take time. Support of the people around them, especially family and friends, in learning and practicing speech-language skills has been seen to make the treatment more effective.

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References
Chawla J. Apraxia and Related Syndromes. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1136037-overview#

Mayo Clinic. Childhood Apraxia of Speech. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/childhood-apraxia-of-speech/symptoms-causes/syc-20352045

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