As you know, May is National Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month, so I decided to talk about a speech impairment called apraxia. Apraxia can be a defining feature seen in some individuals with hemiplegia. Apraxia is a speech disorder that is characterized by the individual having a struggle saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently. Apraxia is not due to a weakness or a paralysis of speech muscles, those being the muscles of the face, tongue, and lips. The severity of apraxia can range from mild to severe.
There are two types of apraxia. They are acquired apraxia of speech and developmental apraxia of speech. Acquired apraxia can affect anyone at any age. It mostly occurs in adults. Acquired apraxia is caused by brain damage that is involved in speech, as well as the loss or impairment of existing speech capabilities. It can be a result of a stroke, head injury, tumor, or other illnesses that have an impact on the brain. It can go together with dysarthria or aphasia as well.
Developmental apraxia happens with children and is present at birth. It is different than a developmental delay of speech, by which the child follows the typical path of speech development. It goes more slowly than normally seen. The cause(s) is not known. Some scientists believe that it is due to a disorder related to a child’s overall language development. Others claim that it is a neurological disorder that alters the brain’s ability to send out the signals necessary to move the muscles needed for speech production.
The most notable characteristic of apraxia is the inability of putting sounds and syllables together to form words correctly. Longer or more complex sounds are more of a challenge than the shorter or simpler words. Those affected by apraxia tend to make inconsistent mistakes when talking. They usually seem to be grasping for the correct sound or word, and they may try repeating a word several times before getting it right. Another symptom of apraxia is the improper use of prosody, including rhythms, stresses, and inflections of speech that are meant to express thoughts. Children who are diagnosed with developmental apraxia understand language easier than they can use language to express their thoughts and feelings.
Speech- language pathologists are involved in the assessment and treatment of those living with apraxia. The person that is responsible for the diagnosis searches for the presence of a group of symptoms such as those that have been previously discussed. In order to diagnose developmental and acquired apraxia, the professionals and parents may need to observe the child over a period of time. For acquired apraxia and developmental apraxia, speech- language pathologists ask the individual to perform speech tasks. In addition, speech- language pathologists can examine the person’s ability to communicate, read, write, and do non- speech movements in the case of acquired apraxia.
The treatment of apraxia is usually based upon and designed to treat other speech or language problems that go along with apraxia. Speech- language pathologists use different approaches to treatment. There is not one specific treatment that works for every person with apraxia. Some people make more progress than others. At some times, acquired apraxia may recover some or all of the speech abilities on their own. With developmental apraxia, children will not outgrow the disorder. They usually need intensive one- on- one therapy. In severe cases, the person may need to use alternative methods that can aid them into expressing themselves.