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May is Apraxia Awareness Month... But what is Apraxia?

May is Apraxia Awareness Month… But what is Apraxia?

May 14th, is Apraxia Awareness Day. Most people have never heard of apraxia (often called Childhood Apraxia of Speech [CAOS]) yet it affects many children and their families worldwide.

Apraxia is a neuromotor speech disorder. This means that there is a difference in the way that the brain is "wired" that causes a disconnect between the brain and the muscles that create speech.

When we speak, our brain must first decide what to say. This is the responsibility of the networks in our brain that govern our cognition and language. When the message is formulated, the brain sends a signal to the motor area of the brain. Apraxic breakdowns occur in this area, as well as the pathways from the brain to the articulators (i.e., tongue, lips, jaw, palate, etc.) that produce the sounds of speech.

Children with apraxia have difficulty planning and executing the precise sequences of oral motor movements that are necessary to produce clear speech sounds. It is NOT due to weakness, but rather due to an inefficiency of the motor planning system that prevents children from creating smooth, sequenced motor movements effectively.

Apraxia can be frustrating for many children, as well as their families. Affected children often know what they want to say, but are unable to create a motor plan to assemble the correct string of sounds and syllables. Children with apraxia often exhibit some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Able to understand more than they can express in words
  • Limited vocalization during infancy (parents call them "quiet babies")
  • Limited number of consonant sounds
  • Vowel errors and distortions
  • Elaborate nonverbal/gestural communication
  • More speech errors in longer words or phrases
  • Slow rate of speech
  • Incorrect sequencing of sounds

If your child's speech is difficult to understand, there are many potential causes, a Speech-Language Pathologist can diagnose your child and work with you to determine the best approach to treatment. Apraxia is not formally diagnosed until after the age of 3; however, there is no reason to wait until that age to seek treatment! Early speech therapy can make a huge difference in your child's life and their ability to communicate.

*Apraxia Kids is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Pittsburgh, PA dedicated to improving the system of support in the lives of children with apraxia of speech so that each child is afforded their best opportunity to develop speech and full communication. It was founded in 2000 and is the only national nonprofit dedicated to those with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) and their families. The organization raises awareness; provides support, information and education; and funds and supports CAS research. Learn more at Apraxia-KIDS.org.

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