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What is Apraxia of Speech?
Also known as verbal dyspraxia, childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is a motor disorder that affects the speaking ability of a child where the brain fails to coordinate with the muscles that are responsible for speech. Children with CAS have difficulty in producing sounds not because they do not know what to say but rather their brain is unable to get their speech muscles to move. It is important to note that CAS is not caused by weak muscles; it is more of a dysfunction in the brain processing pathways.
Apraxia of Speech and Aphasia
CAS and aphasia can overlap because they are both communication disorders. There is also a possibility that both conditions can occur together. While both share some similar characteristics such as difficulty expressing oneself in words, they have distinct differences in terms of how they affect one’s speaking ability. People with aphasia have difficulty understanding or using words themselves. With aphasia, the problem lies with the comprehension of language. Apraxia, on the other hand, does not involve any problems with the comprehension of language but mainly poor speech muscles coordination.
Causes and Symptoms
CAS is a genetic disorder, but it can also be acquired through brain injury if the areas responsible for speech are affected. Children with CAS can be characterized by the following symptoms (Jaganathan, 2018):
Infants and young children
- Late emergence of the baby’s first word
- No cooing or babbling
- Missing consonants and vowels when trying to speak and can only say a few consonants and vowels
- Simplifying difficult words or omitting difficult sounds
- Eating problems
- Struggles to produce consonants and vowels
- Displays a good comprehension of language but struggles to express themselves
- Difficulty in saying long words
- Shows under- or over-sensitivity in the oral area e.g. may not like brushing or eating crunchy food
- May sound monotonous, choppy and places emphasis on the wrong syllables when speaking
Symptoms of CAS may vary from case to case and can sometimes overlap with other difficulties. Some of the symptoms listed above do occur in a typical child’s development. However, if these symptoms continue to persist for a long period of time, there is a possibility that it can be a symptom of CAS.
Can CAS be treated?
CAS cannot be cured but the condition can be improved through extensive therapies and trainings. However, it will take time and the results depend on the severity of the condition, the therapies and trainings conducted, and the amount of home support given. If you are in any doubt, make sure to seek advice from a professional such as a Speech Therapist in order to understand how best to help your child if your child has CAS.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Retrieved from asha.org: https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/ChildhoodApraxia/
Jaganathan, K. L. (2018). Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). Retrieved from thenewageparents.com: https://thenewageparents.com/childhood-apraxia-of-speech/