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Apraxia

Apraxia occurs in both children and adults and is a "motor-speech" disorder, where neurological damage affects the ability to control speech muscles and movements. Messages, or neural communications, between the brain, mouth, and speech muscles are impeded. The person may not be able to move his/her lips, mouth, or tongue properly to speak correctly. The severity of the apraxia depends on the level of neurological damage and the extent of the disruption between brain and speech muscles. Apraxia can occur simultaneously with dysarthria (weakness of the muscles responsible for speech) or aphasia (language impediments due to neurological damage). Apraxia in children is known as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). Because people often (incorrectly and unfairly) make judgments about the intelligence of someone with a speech disorder it is important to find treatment right away and be cognizant of all the related social and communications issues that may affect the individual suffering from apraxia.

Symptoms of Apraxia

Individuals with apraxia know what words they want to express, but cannot coordinate the muscle movements necessary to say all the sounds in the words. Words can come out garbled or completely different than what the speaker intended. E.g. "bipum" for "kitchen" or "down" instead of "town"). Symptoms of apraxia include:

  • Speech errors such as substitutions, sound distortions, omissions of syllables.
  • Speech errors that appear erratic or inconsistent.
  • Vowel or consonant distortions.
  • Word order distortions.
  • Incorrect stress on certain word syllables.
  • Pauses or gaps between syllables.
  • Strange movements of the mouth, tongue, or lips.
  • Difficulty imitating words.
  • Inconsistent errors in speaking.
  • Incorrect rhythm or tone of speech.
  • Late talking in children.

Causes of Apraxia

Causes of Apraxia include traumatic brain injury (TBI), dementia, stroke, brain tumors, or progressive neurological disorders. It is often found in conjunction with other speech disorders such as aphasia. Other causes of apraxia can include infections and genetic disorders.

Treatment for Apraxia

A speech-language pathologist works with apraxic patients to improve their speech by improving the coordination of muscle movements for proper speech. The speech therapist will help the person gain more control of the oral muscles via repetition of speech sounds, words, and sentences. The patient is often given exercises to practice at home. It can sometimes be like learning to speak all over again. If you think about how long it took you as a child to learn to speak properly you can get an idea of the difficulty facing apraxic individuals to re-learn to speak. People with apraxia can improve at different paces. Some people recover spontaneously on their own. Children usually require therapy however. Sometimes auxiliary communication devices such as notebooks, pictures, written words, or computer-aided technologies can help a person as well. There is no easy fix for apraxia, so support from parents, family and friends is of great help during the treatment process because psychological aspects of treatment can have an impact on progress. For both adults and children consistent practice and repetition of speech sounds are very important.

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