Every parent awaits the milestones in their child’s life with excitement and joy — marking every new achievement in books, photographs and videos. However, not every step in life’s journey is as easy as others, and oftentimes there are bumps in the road. If your child is having trouble with speech, don’t worry. Most often, children are developing in their own unique time. However, if you have consistent concerns, find out what apraxia of speech is and how this childhood disorder is diagnosed and treated.
What is apraxia of speech? Apraxia of speech is a childhood motor speech disorder, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Children living with apraxia may have trouble saying words, sounds and even syllables. This speech difficulty is the result of a brain planning problem. The child wants to speak and knows what to say, but cannot easily coordinate the various muscle movements needed. Children with apraxia are neither less intelligent than their peers, nor are their muscles weak or undeveloped.
How is apraxia of speech diagnosed? As with many disorders and conditions, early diagnosis offers early intervention and management. If your child is delayed in speech development, has trouble speaking or difficulty coordinating the mouth movements needed for speech, seems to use the shortest sentences possible or you have any concerns about your child’s language and communication ability, see a trained speech-language pathologist for a proper diagnosis. Some ways apraxia is diagnosed include:
- Audiologist evaluation to rule out hearing problems
- Oral motor assessment to examine oral muscle coordination and tone
- Intonation or melody assessment to determine stress, tone, pitch and pauses in speech
- Speech sound assessment to check quality and understandability of speech sounds
- Literacy, expressive and receptive language evaluation to discover any co-existing disorders that could complicate apraxia
How is apraxia of speech treated? There are many successful forms of treatment for apraxia of speech. Frequent and intensive therapies of at least three to five times a week have been shown to be most helpful. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends one-on-one treatment with a therapist rather than group treatment, at least initially.
The goal of treatment is to improve planning, coordination and sequences of muscle movements to produce speech. Exercises will be determined and performed to suit the needs of the individual. Cues from touch or watching others speak are useful. If apraxia makes speaking very difficult, sign language may be taught to augment communication.
With time, help from qualified professionals and a dedicated family, speech progress will be made. A well-rested child will get the most out of his or her therapies. Practicing the customized assignments is crucial to successful communication for people with apraxia of speech.