A parent's guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech

Updated: May 16, 2019



What is apraxia of speech?

Childhood Apraxia of Speech, or apraxia, is a neurological motor speech disorder in which a child has difficulty making accurate movements when speaking. With apraxia, the muscles aren’t weak, rather the breakdown is in planning the precise motor movements required for clear speech. This may result in inconsistent errors and difficulty with smooth transitions from sound to sound or syllable to syllable in order to form words, phrases, and sentences.


What causes apraxia?

Most of the time, the cause of apraxia is unknown. In some cases, children with apraxia may have experienced brain damage that caused apraxia, such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury. It may also be caused by a genetic disorder or syndrome that causes brain damage.


How do I know if my child has apraxia?

There are several symptoms of apraxia:

  • Severe sound errors

  • Hard to understand

  • Vowel errors

  • Says first words late

  • Variability in production (says the same word differently every time they say it)

  • Has problems putting sounds together (can say “oh” but has trouble putting it with a consonant to say “toe” or “go”).

  • Unusual prosody (the pitch, tone, and pausing of speech) and may sound “flat”

It’s important to seek out a speech language pathologist to conduct a thorough assessment. Assessment for apraxia will often include differentially diagnosing between a severe speech sound disorder and apraxia. Assessment of apraxia should include observation and testing of oral motor skills, prosody or melody of speech, sound production and language skills.

How do you treat apraxia?

Children with apraxia don't make typical developmental sound errors, so it’s imperative they receive speech therapy to make maximum progress. The goal of treatment is to help your child say sounds, words, and sentences more clearly and independently. Research shows maximum progress with therapy 3-5 times per week.


Because the main problem of apraxia is speech motor planning and programming, a speech therapy approach needs to focus on the actual sequenced movements of speech structures and muscles during speech attempts. The approach used by the therapist should aid the child in producing clearer and more accurate words, phrases, and sentences that result in clearer spontaneous speech.


Will my child outgrow apraxia?

No, children don’t outgrow or “catch up” when they have a diagnosis of apraxia, as speech development is atypical, rather than delayed. Children with apraxia can make great progress and resolve speech issues with specific speech therapy, home practice and a supportive home environment.


Other resources for apraxia:

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