Recognizing and Remedying Childhood Apraxia

Does your baby babble? It’s always a good sign if she or he does. For those who don’t – you may want to keep a close eye on your child’s development of speech. Parents need to pay close attention to a child’s speech development and recognize the early signs of a delay or disorder, like Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). 

What is Childhood Apraxia of Speech?
CAS is a motor speech disorder in which children have difficulty planning and programming the movements needed to produce speech.  A child will know what he or she wants to say, but has difficulty moving his or her lips, tongue, jaw and palate to connect sounds and form words. The pathway from the brain to the mouth is like a road. Imagine trees fallen down across the road from a storm. You know which way you want to go. However, there are detours along the way preventing you from getting there.  Frustrating isn’t it? This is what it is like for children with CAS.

How is Childhood Apraxia of Speech detected?
It is normal and healthy for babies to babble and experiment with sounds even before they say their first word. A baby’s lack of “babble” could be an early sign of a speech delay or a disorder such as CAS. Apraxia is commonly misdiagnosed as speech delays or other speech impairments.  Parents should pay close attention, but be aware that just because a child displays some of the indicators does not mean he or she will be diagnosed with apraxia. 

Parents should watch for:

  • Inconsistencies in the way a child pronounces words. A child with CAS may pronounce the same word two different ways from day to day or even in the same sentence. 
  • Difficulty getting words out. This is especially noticeable when you know what your child is trying to say, such as “milk, mommy, daddy,” etc. You may see slow, groping movements when your child is struggling to say the word. 
  • The child understands language more than he or she is able to verbalize. Typically, understanding of language and expression grow together.  In apraxia, there may be a large gap between the child’s level of comprehension and ability to express it.
  • Greater difficulties with longer words or sentences. A child with CAS will have more difficulty with sentences than single words.

What can be done about Childhood Apraxia of Speech?
Speech language pathologists at Good Shepherd know that no two children are alike, so they take an individualized approach to improvement. Treatment is child-centered and differs for each child based on his or her learning preferences and the parents’ wants or needs.

Treatment commonly includes intense and repetitive activities to provoke or “cue” speech. Counting, singing, visual or gestural cues are presented to invoke independent and consistent speech. 

Some children may react better to verbal cues rather than visual or vice-versa. The key is to find out what cues work for each child and to fade them quickly. The key to alleviating apraxia is a lot of repetitive practice across multiple environments.  An ideal regimen consists of more intense and shorter speech sessions and of course, lots and lots of practice at home.

Difficulty speaking can be frustrating for a child, as it would be for anyone. So, it’s important to recognize the signs of a speech disorder and begin treatment early. When children have difficulty communicating their wants and needs, they may shut down or show negative behaviors. It is important to consult with a trained speech language pathologist to ensure early treatment.

For more information on Good Shepherd’s Pediatric Speech and Language Therapy Program, click here.
 

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