Supporting Your Child With Speech Apraxia

What is Speech Apraxia?

Apraxia is a condition where someone has the ability to plan and undertake movement, but they can’t make that movement happen. Speech apraxia refers to specific difficulties with planning and undertaking movements related to speech, which results in a range of communication issues.

Children and adults living with speech apraxia may have problems with pronunciation, reduced speech tempo or substitute or exchange sounds, making it hard to be understood. It can be frustrating knowing what they want to say, but unable to clearly communicate it. Signs can occur in the areas of articulation, speech melody, rhythm or speech behaviour. 

Symptoms of Speech Apraxia

A speech therapist can provide a diagnosis of speech apraxia, based on the following symptoms:

  • Incomprehensible pronunciation
  • Substitutions or exchanges of sounds
  • A mixture of types of errors
  • Searching movements of the articulation organs (tongue, lips, etc.)
  • Reduced speech tempo
  • Vowels are spoken stretched
  • Syllable speech
  • Errors in word stressing 

In speech apraxia, phonetic deviations (e.g. an overly airy pronunciation of “t”) can lead to long term issues with pronunciation. Similarly, substitutions or exchanges of sounds, as well as a mixture of other speech errors, can also occur. Issues with articulation often affect the beginning of words or syllables and can be linked to problems with the movements of the tongue and lips. 

With the constant struggle to control speech, speech tempo is often reduced, vowels are spoken stretched and sometimes there may also be errors in word stressing by accenting syllables excessively or incorrectly. This is frustrating for people living with speech apraxia, who retain intact speech understanding but cannot easily communicate their responses.

Another effect of speech apraxia is exhaustion, as the effort to generate coherent speech can be tiring. This effort can also lead to fixed facial expressions, tension in facial and throat muscles as well as a pressed voice. 

Causes of Speech Apraxia

Speech apraxia is most commonly caused by strokes, but brain tumours, brain infections and craniocerebral injuries can also result in the condition. Speech apraxia often occurs after damage to the left brain hemisphere, the side of the brain responsible for speech. That’s why aphasia (loss of speech or speech comprehension) often occurs alongside speech apraxia. 

How to Support Your Child With Speech Apraxia

There is no cure or single effective treatment for speech apraxia, but there are ways to support someone with the condition. Here are some ways you can more effectively support your child or loved one with speech apraxia.

Formal diagnosis - getting a formal diagnosis from a specialist or speech pathologist is the first step in getting the help and support you and your child needs. 

Speech therapy - speech pathologists are specialists in treating speech apraxia and are your go-to specialist for ongoing treatment, therapy and support.

Occupational therapy - if there are other movement or neurological conditions present, an OT can be a big help in managing how to navigate day-to-day life.

Involve others - talk to people about your situation and be honest about the challenges. Support and acceptance from family and friends will make you and your child’s lives easier. 

Practice regularly at home - if exercises are provided by your child’s therapist, ensure you make time to practice. Also, try to include the tips you got from your therapist at home. 

Educate yourself - there are resources available to help you better understand speech apraxia and how you can support your child. The more you understand, the more you know and the more you can help your child.

Try Calmcare calming clothing. Wearing Calmcare can help people with apraxia by improving their body awareness, producing a positive effect on posture and perception. Sensory clothing can also calm down your body, reduce stress and increase overall wellbeing.