Speech apraxia is one of the great mysteries of childhood speech delays.
In speech apraxia, children do not have any damage to the muscles of their face, mouth, tongue, or lips, but still have trouble communicating with words and language. Sometimes people with acquired speech apraxia (mostly adults) will spontaneously recover on their own. This, however, is not the case for children. Children need treatment to help them learn to effectively communicate.
The causes of speech apraxia are difficult to identify. Some think it's a problem in the brain, but there also seems to be a strong genetic component. Another theory is that children whom develop speech apraxia did not move their bodies actively and appropriately during infancy.
Oftentimes speech apraxia is accompanied by other childhood disorders, like autism, Down Syndrome, or other disorders that affect muscle tone like cerebral palsy. At the same time, a child who has speech apraxia can be typical in terms of development in every other way.
The good news is, childhood apraxia of speech is very treatable. It just requires early, intense treatment. As with most speech disorders, the treatment will vary based on the severity of the child's speech apraxia.
There are different strategies for treating childhood speech apraxia. There is motokinesthetics and PROMPT, which involve the manual manipulation of speech muscles by the SLP. Hands-on treatments like this help the child feel the appropriate movement patterns for speech.
For children with severe speech apraxia, computerized speech-generating devices have proven to be an incredible breakthrough. They have made communication a reality for many when it was previously considered impossible. These devices have been around since the 50's and 60's, but have improved drastically over the last 20 years or so. They provide children whom previously had no method of communication with a method to communicate. As a by-product, parents can better understand what their child needs, because where there was no line of communication before, these devices eliminate some of the guesswork. At Kara Dodds and Associates, we provide these voice output computer options and work with families closely to determine what is needed for each child.