Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), also known as developmental apraxia, is a motor speech disorder in which children have problems saying sounds, syllables and words due to the brain having problems planning to move the body parts (i.e. lips, jaw, tongue) needed for speech. The child knows what he or she wants to say, but his/her brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words.
The cause of childhood apraxia of speech is unknown. The majority of children with developmental apraxia will experience significant improvement, if not complete recovery, with the correct treatment.
What are some signs or symptoms childhood apraxia of speech?
A Very Young Child
- Does not coo or babble as an infant
- First words are late, and they may be missing sounds
- Only a few different consonant and vowel sounds
- Problems combining sounds; may show long pauses between sounds
- Simplifies words by replacing difficult sounds with easier ones or by deleting difficult sounds (although all children do this, the child with apraxia of speech does so more often)
- May have problems eating
An Older Child
- Makes inconsistent sound errors that are not the result of immaturity
- Can understand language much better than he or she can talk
- Has difficulty imitating speech, but imitated speech is more clear than spontaneous speech
- May appear to be groping when attempting to produce sounds or to coordinate the lips, tongue, and jaw for purposeful movement
- Has more difficulty saying longer words or phrases clearly than shorter ones
- Appears to have more difficulty when he or she is anxious
- Is hard to understand, especially for an unfamiliar listener
- Sounds choppy, monotonous, or stresses the wrong syllable or word
Acquired apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder that is caused by damage to the parts of the brain related to talking in which an individual has trouble sequencing the sounds in syllables and words. Other terms include apraxia of speech, verbal apraxia, and dyspraxia. Individuals with apraxia of speech know what they want to say, but their brains have difficulty coordinating the muscle movements and therefore are unable to say the words correctly. Common causes of acquired apraxia include: stroke, traumatic brain injury, dementia, tumors and progressive neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.
Apraxia of speech varies in severity. Some signs and symptoms include:
- difficulty imitating speech sounds
- difficulty imitating non-speech movements (oral apraxia), such as sticking out their tongue
- groping when trying to produce sounds
- in severe cases, an inability to produce sound at all
- inconsistent errors
- slow rate of speech
- somewhat preserved ability to produce “automatic speech” (rote speech), such as greetings like “How are you?”