Most of the time, when a child begins to speak, it’s a momentous occasion which makes for some very proud parents.
However, when there are delays or disorders affecting speech, it can fill your head with questions.
Will my child catch up to their peers?
Is this because of something we did?
What if we did things differently?
The truth is, it’s not usually anything you did – your child may just have a speech disorder, like childhood apraxia of speech.
Today we’ll have a close look the causes and treatment for childhood apraxia of speech.
Keep reading to learn more.
What Is Childhood Apraxia Of Speech?
When you speak, your brain sends signals to your mouth, which instructs your muscles on how to move for sound to come out.
When a child has apraxia of speech, it’s because the brain has difficulty sending the signals required in order to coordinate muscle movement.
It should be noted childhood apraxia of speech has nothing to do with muscles being too weak to move the lips and tongue in the ways needed to form speech.
It’s entirely a matter of a poor connection between the brain and the muscles needed to form speech.
Signs & Symptoms Of Childhood Apraxia Of Speech
If you’re worried your child has childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), here are some signs and symptoms to watch for:
- Delayed onset of speech/first words
- Only being able to form a limited number of letter sounds
- Being able to speak only a limited number of words
- Saying words a different way each time
- Putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable
- Distorting word sounds
- Has less difficulty pronouncing short words than longer words
- Mixing up sounds, such as pronouncing a “P” like a “B”
- Separating syllables, even within a word
Some of the symptoms of CAS can be similar to those of other speech disorders, however, there are a number of markers which can help to distinguish it from other speech disorders.
Some of these are as follows:
- Being unable, or having difficulty transitioning smoothly from one word or sound to another
- Having trouble imitating simple words
- Making groping movements while attempting to make correct movements in order to create speech sounds
- Stressing the wrong syllables in a word, or stressing all syllables equally
- Distorting vowels, or saying them incorrectly
- Inconsistency, for instance, attempting to say a word but making different errors on each attempt
What Causes Childhood Apraxia Of Speech?
There are a variety of causes for childhood apraxia of speech, however, it’s not always possible to indicate the precise cause of any one case.
Some potential causes of CAS can include:
- A genetic disorder, metabolic condition or syndrome
- Brain condition or injuries
- Infection in the brain
- Traumatic injury
It’s not currently believed that environment is related to development of childhood apraxia of speech.
How Can A Speech Therapist Help With Childhood Apraxia Of Speech?
If you suspect your child is showing signs of childhood apraxia of speech, or any other condition related to speech development there are a number of reasons to seek out the help of a speech therapist.
The longer you wait, however, the more difficult treatment can be, which is why early intervention in speech disorders is so important.
In this section, we’ll review some of the ways in which a speech therapist can help in cases of CAS.
1. Testing For Childhood Apraxia Of Speech
In order to provide treatment for any speech disorder, the first step will be to determine what the precise issue is.
If you suspect your child has childhood apraxia of speech, an exam is needed in order to determine if the problem is CAS, or something else.
During the examination, your child’s language skills, vocabulary and ability to understand speech will be examined.
The speech therapist will look at the muscles used for speech, and the way they are used to produce word sounds, and how they move their mouth for activities like smiling or blowing.
During this oral-motor assessment, they will examine the child’s tongue, lips, jaw, and palate for issues such as tongue-tie or cleft palate.
Some issues such as poor muscle tone may not indicate CAS but could be indicative of other conditions.
2. Testing For Coexisting Problems
It’s not uncommon for other issues to be uncovered when testing for childhood apraxia of speech.
Some common comorbidities include:
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Fine and gross motor difficulties
- Learning disorders
- Hearing loss
- Literacy difficulties
3. Sound And Mouth Movement Exercises
Once a diagnosis of childhood apraxia of speech has been made, a speech therapist can provide at-home speech therapy exercises and other therapies to help correct these issues.
During sound and movement exercises, your speech therapist will work with your child showing them how to make the target words or phrases.
From there, your child will attempt to mimic the movements which accompany those sounds.
4. Speech Drills And Practice
With any speech disorder, practicing and drilling the proper pronunciation of things is important.
A 2017 study in the journal Aphasiology found vowel difficulties to be common in children with apraxia, and thus it makes sense to focus treatments on this area.
5. Alternative Communication Methods
For children with severe speech disorders, developing alternative ways of communicating can help them to communicate with others.
This can including formal skill such as sign language, or gestures such as mimicking eating or drinking to indicate thirst and hunger.
Devices such as picture boards or electronic tablets can also be useful tools.
Introducing these sorts of alternative communication methods early can help lessen frustration for both parents and children and assist in the development of language skills and vocabulary.
Book An Appointment With District Speech
Are you worried your child has a speech disorder?
Have you noticed they aren’t developing at the same rate as other children their age, or at the same rate their older siblings or cousins did?
District Speech is here to help.
Contact us today to set up a consultation with one of our speech therapists.
We can assess your child for childhood apraxia of speech and other potential issues, and offer a treatment plan to help get their development back on track.
If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with one of our speech and language therapists, feel free to contact us.
Until next time,
District Speech and Language Therapy
1331 H St NW, #200,
Washington, DC 20005
District Speech & Language Therapy specializes in speech and language solutions from children to adults in the Washington D.C and Northern Virginia area.