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

  • Distorting sounds
  • Making inconsistent errors in speech
  • Difficulty finding the right sounds or words
  • Making errors in tone, stress, or rhythm

Children May Also Exhibit

  • Trouble with fine motor skills
  • Delayed speech
  • Difficulty with reading and writing

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: 

  • Touch cues: Putting a finger on the lips to feel the motion that certain sounds make
  • Visual cues: Speaking while looking into a mirror
  • Listening cues: Recoding sounds then listening to how they sound played back

Apraxia in the Classroom

In the classroom, students with apraxia have unique needs. While they generally receive information well and understand instruction, they may have difficulty effectively demonstrating what they have learned. This can lead 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. Children with apraxia often benefit from the support of a special education specialist.

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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Article Sources
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  3. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Apraxia of speech. Updated October 31, 2017. 

  4. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Childhood apraxia of speech

  5. Cedars-Sinai. Childhood apraxia of speech.