Tomorrow is Apraxia Awareness Day.
I thought I’d use my post today to do just that: make you aware of Apraxia of Speech, because this cause is something that means a lot to me.
If you have not heard of Apraxia of Speech before, it is defined on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s website as:
“a motor speech disorder. Children with CAS have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words. This is not because of muscle weakness or paralysis. The brain has problems planning to move the body parts (e.g., lips, jaw, tongue) needed for speech. The child knows what he or she wants to say, but his/her brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words.”
Although my daughters do not have Apraxia themselves, we have two members of our extended family-one on each side- who do. Therefore, we do have some experience with the disorder. Additionally, two out of three of my girls needed speech and language therapy from age three through early elementary school age. And so, the speech and language disorder arena is one which we are pretty familiar with.
As a parent, I remember the frustration both of my daughters would experience as they tried to communicate their thoughts to us, with speech that couldn’t do the job they wanted it to do. I can clearly see the look on people’s faces when they’d ask one of them a question but not understand the answer that came out. I can remember trying to “translate” for them and not always being correct in guessing what it was they were trying to say. I remember the many weeks, days and hours spent bringing them to speech therapy twice a week and working with them at home on their “homework,” working in front of a mirror, playing “games,” listening to them practice their sounds, helping them to reinforce what they were learning in therapy, for years and years.It was a long road for them, but I am happy now when I hear them chattering away.
Apraxia kids experience frustration as well, as they try to get what they want to say, from their brain and out. They too, have hours and hours of therapy to help them. For many Apraxia kids, the disorder is a life-long struggle. For others, they may see better success with treatment. Every child is different.
Awareness of Apraxia helps you to understand children who may have the disorder, but it may also help you identify it in someone you know, whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a relative. Early intervention is critical and evaluation followed by treatment is essential to helping these children find their speech.
If you are wondering what some of the signs and symptoms of Apraxia of Speech are, here’s the list I’ve copied and pasted from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s website, but keep in mind that every child is an individual and no two children’s cases of Apraxia are exactly the same:
A Very Young Child
- Does not coo or babble as an infant
- First words are late, and they may be missing sounds
- Only a few different consonant and vowel sounds
- Problems combining sounds; may show long pauses between sounds
- Simplifies words by replacing difficult sounds with easier ones or by deleting difficult sounds (although all children do this, the child with apraxia of speech does so more often)
- May have problems eating
An Older Child
- Makes inconsistent sound errors that are not the result of immaturity
- Can understand language much better than he or she can talk
- Has difficulty imitating speech, but imitated speech is more clear than spontaneous speech
- May appear to be groping when attempting to produce sounds or to coordinate the lips, tongue, and jaw for purposeful movement
- Has more difficulty saying longer words or phrases clearly than shorter ones
- Appears to have more difficulty when he or she is anxious
- Is hard to understand, especially for an unfamiliar listener
- Sounds choppy, monotonous, or stresses the wrong syllable or word
Potential Other Problems
- Delayed language development
- Other expressive language problems like word order confusions and word recall
- Difficulties with fine motor movement/coordination
- Over sensitive (hypersensitive) or under sensitive (hyposensitive) in their mouths (e.g., may not like toothbrushing or crunchy foods, may not be able to identify an object in their mouth through touch)
- Children with CAS or other speech problems may have problems when learning to read, spell, and write
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