Apraxia of Speech Neurological Disorder

A teacher reads with a student.

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Apraxia is a neurological disorder affecting the ability to control fine and gross motor movement and gestures. Individuals may be born with apraxia, or they may acquire apraxia through brain injury. Apraxia can affect the ability to move facial muscles or the ability to move legs, feet, and toes. The disorder can also affect communication skills.

Apraxia can range from mild to severe. People with apraxia often cannot perform controlled, purposeful movement, despite having the physical strength and intellectual thought and desire to do so. Apraxia is believed to stem from disorders in the parietal lobes of the brain.

What Is Apraxia of Speech?

Apraxia of Speech is a type of apraxia that specifically affects the ability to use tongue, lips, and jaw to form spoken words. It can be mild or severe, making it difficult or actually impossible to communicate verbally.

Signs of Apraxia of Speech

  • Lack of babbling in very young children
  • Difficulty in forming words all or some of the time
  • Difficulty with chewing or swallowing
  • Difficulty with particular words that are difficult to form
  • Repetition of words

How Do Speech Therapists Treat Apraxia of Speech?

Speech therapists may work intensively with children who have apraxia of speech, in order to improve communication skills. Some therapeutic techniques include: 

  • Practicing the formation and pronunciation of sounds and words
  • Making individual sounds and then stringing them together to make words
  • Using music, rhythm, and movement to practice speech
  • Using tactile and visual techniques such as speaking while looking into a mirror, touching the face while speaking, etc.

Apraxia in the Classroom

In the classroom, students with apraxia have unique needs. While they generally receive information well and understand instruction, they cannot effectively demonstrate what they have learned. This leads to a great deal of frustration for students. In some cases, sign language can be a useful adjunct to spoken language, though it is also important to try using spoken language while also using sign. Other supportive techniques include the use of electronic speech-production products which can make communication easier. 

Because apraxia affects each person differently, educators and parents should strive to find alternative ways for students to participate meaningfully in the classroom.

Occupational, physical, and speech therapists working with students can provide valuable information on how to adapt instruction and classroom materials to enable students to participate and to lower their frustration levels. In addition to specific techniques for improving and supporting speech, it's also important to provide children with apraxia with social supports such as peer buddy groups.

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