Childhood apraxia of speech is defined as a muscle planning disorder that causes difficulty producing sounds, syllables, and words. The muscles of the mouth are not actually weak; rather, the brain cannot properly coordinate muscle movements. In other words, the brain knows what it wants to say but has a hard time telling the lips, tongue, and jaw how to move the right way to produce speech sounds correctly.
What are some of the main characteristics of childhood apraxia of speech?
Some of the distinguishing characteristics of childhood apraxia of speech may include:
- A lack of oral-motor coordination
- Robotic-sounding speech
- Speech that is missing many sounds
- Greater difficulty imitating words on request than producing them spontaneously
- Inconsistency of sound productions. A child may be able to say a word once and then not again or may be able to say a word sometimes but not at other times.
- Groping with the tongue, lips, and jaw when attempting to speak
- Feeding difficulties
How is childhood apraxia of speech treated?
Treatment for childhood apraxia of speech usually involves intensive speech therapy, often three to five times a week, initially. Therapy sessions should target improved coordination of muscle movements through lots and lots of repetition attempting to say syllables, words, and phrases. A speech therapist will work with the child to help shape speech attempts and muscle movements into clearer speech. With time and hard work, many children with apraxia can eventually become competent speakers.