Childhood Apraxia of Speech is a problem with motor planning—when we speak, we have to execute on a plan for how our articulators, our tongue, lips, and teeth, move to correctly produce the words we want to say. Speakers with apraxia struggle with coordinating these movements, and as a result, produce a variety of errors in speech. This article explains some of the characteristics of childhood Apraxia of speech.
Some of the hallmark signs of apraxia are difficulty with production of vowels, inconsistent errors, extra movements of the articulators when trying to figure out how to produce a specific movement pattern, problems with using intonation correctly, and atypical types of speech errors, like insertion of sounds in words. Speakers sometimes have an easier time with automated sequences, like counting or saying the days of the week, than trying to say a single word when put on the spot.
In young children, these motor planning errors can be tricky to differentiate from articulation, phonological, or language based issues. In fact, many kids with apraxia may have these other areas of speech and language impacted as well, which can create significant problems with their ability to be understood.
The good news is that apraxia is a condition with well-known strategies to help treat in speech therapy! Kids with apraxia do well different therapy programs that control the complexity of tasks in systematic ways, gradually increasing the challenge of the task and providing many opportunities for practicing different movements between sounds. Building automaticity is key, which means that kids with apraxia will benefit from lots and lots of practice. This repetition allows them to internalize motor plans for improved speech, which in turn improves their ability to be understood.
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