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What is Childhood Apraxia of Speech?
Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder whereby a child’s brain has difficulty coordinating the complex oral movements needed to create sounds into syllables, syllables into words, and words into phrases. Muscle weakness is not the culprit behind this disorder but rather the poor coordination between the brain signals and the muscles around the mouth area.
A common example will be when the child is trying to say the word but cannot seem to get it out or that the child said the word once but seems unable to repeat it again. Children with CAS are often described as being very difficult to understand.
There is currently no cure for CAS and the child cannot outgrow it. However, children with CAS can make great progress in terms of their speech and language skills with a lot of hard work and support.
Not all children with CAS exhibits the same symptoms. Your child may show some or all of the symptoms below. You should always consult your doctor and see a Speech Therapist if your child is older than 3 years and:
- does not always say words the same way every time
- tends to put the stress on the wrong syllable or word
- distorts or changes sounds
- can say shorter words more clearly than longer words
Children with CAS may experience other difficulties such as:
- difficulty with fine motor skills
- delayed language
- problems with reading, spelling, and writing
Treatment for CAS should be a prolonged and intensive one whereby the goal of treatment is to help your child say sounds, words, and sentences more clearly. Research and evidence have shown that the following exercises do benefit children with CAS:
- making multiple repetitions of sound sequences, words and phrases
- using “touch” cues — g. putting their finger on their lips when saying the “p” sound as a reminder to close the lips
- using “visual” cues — g. looking into a mirror when making sounds to understand the mouth movement better
- using “listening” cues — g. practicing sounds with a recorder and then listening to hear if the sounds were made correctly
- co-production i.e. having the child say the word at the same time as you
Although CAS is a difficult condition to manage, with active and intensive commitment and involvement by the family and the adults around the child, the child can reap the maximum benefits from the therapy sessions and make significant improvements to their speech and language skills.