What is apraxia of speech?

If your child is having difficulty in forming words and speaking, he may have childhood apraxia of speech. We find out more about this disorder. By Lijeng Ranooe


Apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder, which affects the way the body is able to produce speech. Motor speech disorders are neurological in nature, which means that the brain has difficulty coordinating the different body parts needed to produce speech—the tongue, lips and lower jaw. Apraxia is different from other motor speech disorders in that it’s not caused by muscle weakness, a limited range of motion, or paralysis of any muscles. However, the cause of apraxia can be unknown with no neurological indicators.

There are two forms of apraxia of speech:

  1. Acquired apraxia: Acquired apraxia can occur in people of all ages. This condition causes people to lose the speech-making abilities they once possessed.
  1. Developmental apraxia of speech, also known as childhood apraxia of speech: This condition is present from birth, and it affects a child’s ability to form sounds and words.

What causes apraxia?

  1. Neurological damage due to infection, illness, injury, or trauma.
  2. A genetic disorder, metabolic disorder, degenerative disorder, and seizures.

What are signs and symptoms of childhood apraxia of speech?

  1. Articulatory groping. Your child struggles or searches for the right sounds when attempting to talk with his tongue, lips, or lower jaw.
  1. Late talking. If your baby doesn’t coo or babble, or if your toddler is considered a “late talker”, apraxia could be involved.
  1. Multisyllabic words are harder. Errors will increase the more complex the word or utterance.
  1. Errors are inconsistent. Different kinds of errors occur on the same word when repeated.
  1. Spontaneous speech is more difficult. Automatic speech (i.e. counting, singing, gestures, etc.) and imitated speech will be less affected then spontaneous speech.

Click here to read more about speech difficulties in childhood.

How to help your child with his speech at home

If your child has speech delays or struggles to form words and sounds, it is advisable to consult a speech therapist.

These are only additional ideas (which should not replace therapy) to help your child with his speech development at home.

1. Turn off the television

The background noise can make it harder for a child to listen and talk.

2. Make your own magnets

Make some magnets of your child’s favourite things. When he wants something, he can bring the magnet to you. Say the word to him and get him to repeat it.

3. Spend time just playing

Playing involves communication and this will help make it more natural for your child.

4. Develop his muscles

Put a cotton wool ball on a table or on the floor. Let your child blow through the straw to make the ball move. This will help to develop the oral muscles needed for speech.

5. Drink with a straw

Let your child use a straw to drink many different types of liquids (water, milk, apple sauce, pureed fruits, milkshakes). This will help to strengthen the muscles in your child’s mouth, to make speech easier.

6. Put some things out of reach

Do this with something that you know your child will want (a favourite book or toy) and he will have to communicate to ask you for help to get it.



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