What is apraxia? Learn how to help your child
From the moment that your child is born, you start anticipating first steps, teaching your child to ride a bike and the first day of school. Another “first” that you imagine with great anticipation is your child’s first words. What happens as your child’s first words turn into phrases and you find that your child cannot be understood by those around him? At times, even you, as their parent, have trouble making sense of what your child is trying to say. You consult with a Speech Language Pathologist who talks about “apraxia” as a possible reason for your child’s speech difficulties. So, what is apraxia?
The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) defines the term “childhood apraxia of speech” as follows:
Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is 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.
Meet Colleen. She is the mother to a four year old daughter, Olivia, who has been diagnosed with apraxia. Here is how Colleen explains apraxia: “It is a neurological disorder. The pathways for language get separated as they travel to the nerves and muscles that produce sounds. The message travels down a pathway then get split up and weakened as it gets closer to intended destination.” Colleen explains that, for her daughter, apraxia is “almost like dyslexia but for speech, she knows what word she wants to say but by the time the word gets to her mouth the message is so weak she produces a mixed up version of the word she wants to vocalize, for example, mispronouncing the word dog in a way that sounds like god-g.”
The national organization Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association shares the following warning signs for apraxia in infants and young children:
- Little to no babbling or cooing
- Difficulty feeding or transitioning to solid foods
- Late in saying first words and may be missing sounds
- Unable to string two words together or make short sentences
- Makes inconsistent sound errors
- Sounds choppy, monotonous or stresses the wrong syllable or word
- Has difficulty with spontaneous speech
What can you do to help at home?
Lauren Robinson, Speech-Language Pathologist with Children’s Support Solutions shares the following tips for parents when it comes to helping their child with apraxia:
- Repetition, repetition, and repetition! Intervention has to be systematic, hierarchical and repetitive to help teach different sound sequences. Repetition during therapy and at home is important.
- Practice at home! Practice the words/approximations that your Speech-Language Pathologist is working on with your child.
- Isolate one word. When you don’t understand your child and ask for one of the words to be repeated. By breaking up words and using repetition, you can help them be successful.
Colleen shares that the use of sign language has also helped her daughter to communicate: “The physical prompting for Olivia has been very helpful with her sound sequencing. We use the movement of the sign to help with the sounds of the word.”
Helpful resources on apraxia:
- The Apraxia Kids website has lots of fantastic questions and answers in parent-friendly language: http://www.apraxia-kids.org/guides/family-start-guide/
- Matthew’s Journey: One Word at a Time http://www.mississauga.com/community-story/4179181-matthew-s-journey-one-word-at-a-time/
- Childhood Apraxia of Speech from the American Speech and Hearing Association: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/ChildhoodApraxia/
Children with apraxia will benefit from a supportive environment that will help them feel positive as they strive to increase their successful communication attempts.
How we help children with apraxia
Children with apraxia will benefit from a supportive environment that will help them feel positive as they strive to increase their successful communication attempts. Our therapists will help you understand what apraxia is and help you advocate for your child during treatment.
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