What is Childhood Apraxia of Speech?:
Childhood Apraxia of Speech is a disorder of the nervous system that affects the ability to sequence and say sounds, syllables and words. This disorder does not result from muscular weakness or paralysis, rather, the problem results from the brain’s difficulty with planning, coordinating and executing the motor movements of the body parts needed for speech (e.g., lips, jaw, tongue). The child knows what he or she wants to say, but the brain is not sending the correct instructions to move the body parts of speech the way they need to be moved.
Assessment and Treatment:
The assessment process for childhood apraxia of speech is conducted using standardized tests and/or informal testing and observation, and parent/patient interview. Articulation (pronunciation of sounds in words) is evaluated, including both vowel and consonant sounds. Clinicians assess production of these sounds both in isolation and also in combination with one another (syllable and word shapes). Overall intelligibility or clarity of the child’s speech is assessed in single words as well as longer utterances. This diagnosis is often made after a child is seen in therapy for some time and speech characteristics consistent with childhood apraxia of speech are noticed. These characteristics include, but are not limited to inconsistent sound errors, more difficulty with longer words, longer production time, difficulty transitioning from one sound to another or from one syllable to the next, etc.
Intervention for the child diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech often focuses on improving the planning, sequencing and coordination of motor movements for speech production. The intervention must be intensive (at least three times per week) for optimal results. One of the most important things for families to remember is that treatment of Childhood Apraxia of Speech takes time, commitment and a supportive environment, which helps the child feel successful when communicating. Without a combination of intensive intervention and familial support, the disorder can persist for years and have negative social and psychological consequences.