What is Childhood Apraxia of Speech?
Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a neurological syndrome in which pathways from the brain to produce speech are affected. This may cause the child to be unable to move their lips, tongue, or other articulators in a way that makes the desired speech sound—this does not mean there is weakness in these muscles. This also has nothing to do with how the child thinks, but how the brain communicates with the muscles of speech production.
What are some signs and symptoms?
Some signs and symptoms of CAS include:
- Saying the same word in different ways,
- Only being able to produce a few different types of sounds,
- Difficulty moving between sounds and syllables,
- Having difficulty imitating what another person is saying,
- Having trouble with longer words and preferring to use shorter words,
- Understanding spoken language better than they can speak it
What is the cause?
There is no known cause of CAS. It may be genetic and linked to an overall language development delay. It may run in families and affects boys more often than girls.
Assessment of Childhood Apraxia of Speech
For assessment of CAS, see a speech-language pathologist. They will assess individual speech sound production alone or in syllables/words. They will also identify overall intelligibility and how well the child is understood. The SLP will also administer an oral mechanism exam to check range of motion for tongue, lips, etc. and have the child perform oral motor movements.
Treatment of Childhood Apraxia of Speech
Treatment is necessary as CAS is likely not resolved on the child’s own. They will need therapy to help effectively motor plan the articulators to produce correct speech sounds. Essentially, the SLP is helping the child re-learn or re-work the motor pathways in order to accurately produce the desired sound.
Some helpful treatment strategies:
- Use touch/tactile cues—you can search “Tactile Cues for Apraxia of Speech” on Google,
- Use visuals—like sound cue picture cards (I love the Bjorem Speech Sound Cue cards) or you can use a mirror,
- Use auditory cues—record the child speaking and have them listen to their production vs. a correct production of the sound. Auditory discrimination is a great tool to use in therapy!
Treatment involving Childhood Apraxia of Speech takes time. It is imperative that what is learned in speech therapy is to be practiced and reviewed in the home environment. Family support is very important in treatment of CAS. Collaborate with the SLP to make the treatment program best-suited for the child so that progress can be made!