a woman seeking help for her apraxia of speech

What are the Symptoms of Apraxia of Speech?

What is Apraxia of Speech?

Apraxia of speech (AOS) is a speech sound disorder that is also commonly referred to as acquired apraxia of speech, verbal apraxia, or childhood apraxia of speech. An individual with AOS struggles to express themselves correctly and consistently through speaking. Apraxia of speech is a neurological disorder that affects the brain pathways that are involved with planning and executing the sequence of movements that are required to produce speech. The brain knows what it wants to say, but struggles to correctly plan and sequence the necessary speech sound movements.

Apraxia of speech can have significant effects on the individual’s ability to communicate, and subsequently make academic, professional, and social situations difficult to navigate. Getting the help and support of an experienced speech and language pathologist is essential when dealing with apraxia of speech. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!

What are the Symptoms of Apraxia of Speech?

The symptoms of AOS can vary widely and can include: 

  • Difficulty or the Inability to Put Syllables Together to Create Words
  • Limited Babbling During Infant Years
  • Difficulty with Saying Complex or Long Words
  • Makes Repeated Attempts at Pronouncing Certain Words
  • Inconsistencies in Speech (can properly produce certain sounds or words at some times but not others)
  • Improper Inflections or Emphasis on Certain Words or Letter Sounds
  • Excessively Uses Nonverbal Types of Communication
  • Distortion of Certain Vowel Sounds
  • Omission of Consonant Sounds at the Start or End of Words
  • Appears to Struggle to Produce Speech

Apraxia of speech in childhood rarely occurs on its own. It can often be accompanied by other language or cognitive deficits, which can result in the child having:

  • A Limited Vocabulary
  • Frequent Grammatical Errors
  • Difficulties Related to Coordination and Fine Motor Skills
  • Difficulties with Chewing and Swallowing
  • Clumsiness

What are 4 of the Characteristics of Apraxia of Speech?

4 of the most commonly seen characteristics in cases of apraxia of speech are: 

Poor Speech Intelligibility – Speech may be muddled, unclear, and difficult to understand. In turn, this can discourage the individual from attempting to speak and speech may deteriorate further as a result. 

Restricted Sound Inventory & Vowel Repertoire – The individual may have a limited repertoire of speech sounds (especially vowel sounds) that they can correctly and easily produce. 

Disturbances of Prosody – Prosody involves the intonation, emphasis pattern, volume variations, pauses, and rhythm of speech. Prosody is expressed mainly by variances in pitch, loudness, and duration of words, syllables or individual letter sounds. Individuals with apraxia of speech may use prosody in inappropriate or inconsistent ways. 

Robotic-Like Way of Speaking – Individuals with apraxia of speech may speak in a disjointed or ‘robotic’ manner, often producing one syllable at a time. Their speech may appear to lack fluidity and a natural pace. 

What are the Causes and Types of Apraxia of Speech?

There are two primary types of Apraxia of speech: acquired apraxia of speech and childhood apraxia of speech.

Acquired Apraxia of Speech: This type can affect an individual at any age, though it most commonly appears in adults. Acquired AOS can be caused by damage to certain parts of the brain that are responsible for speech and results in the loss or impairment of existing speech skills. It can be the result of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, brain tumor, or other condition that affects the brain. Acquired apraxia of speech sometimes occurs simultaneously with other medical conditions that are caused by damage to the nervous system. These can include dysarthria and aphasia. 

Childhood Apraxia of Speech: This type is present from birth and is also referred to as developmental apraxia of speech, developmental verbal apraxia, or articulatory apraxia. Childhood apraxia of speech is not the same as developmental delays in speech, in which a child follows the typical path of speech development but does so at a slower rate than is normal. The causes of childhood AOS are still not well understood by scientists. Extensive research has not been able to discover evidence of brain damage or brain structure differences in children with apraxia of speech. Children with AOS commonly have family members who also have a history of a learning disability or communication disorder. Recent research discoveries suggest that genetic factors may play a significant role in the development of this disorder. Childhood apraxia of speech seems to affect more boys than girls.

Whatever the type of apraxia and the underlying cause may be, time with an experienced speech and language pathologist is essential. Get started on the path to clearer speech and increased confidence by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

How is Apraxia of Speech Treated?

In some cases, individuals with acquired apraxia of speech will recover some or all of their speech skills without treatment. This is known as spontaneous recovery.

Children with apraxia of speech do not outgrow the problem on their own. They also will not effectively acquire the basics of speech by simply being around other children, such as in a classroom environment. Therefore, speech-language therapy is essential for children with apraxia of speech as well as for individuals with acquired apraxia of speech who do not recover all of their speech skills spontaneously.

How Can Speech Therapy Help with Apraxia of Speech?

Speech-language pathologists use a variety of different methods to treat apraxia of speech, and there is no single approach that has been proven to be the most effective. Speech therapy must be tailored to the individual’s needs and goals and should be designed to address other speech or language issues that may occur in combination with AOS. Regular, intensive, one-on-one speech-language therapy sessions are an essential element of treatment for both children and adults with apraxia of speech. Children with severe cases of AOS may require intensive speech-language therapy that continues for years, in combination with regular schooling, to achieve adequate speech abilities.

In severe cases of apraxia of speech, individuals may need to use alternative ways to communicate and express themselves. These can include the use of formal or informal sign language, a notebook with pictures or written words that can be pointed to and shown to others, or an electronic communication device (such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop computer) that can be used to write or produce speech. These assistive communication approaches can also help children with apraxia of speech learn to read and better comprehend spoken language by stimulating certain areas of the brain responsible for language and literacy.

Get started with speech therapy by scheduling your free introductory call today!