What is Apraxia? How does it affect speech and language acquisition?

When I diagnose a child with Apraxia, the mother always goes home to do research on her computer about the disorder.  This is a very pragmatic thing to do.  However, there is a lot of doom and gloom about Apraxia on the internet.  Like any disorder, there are many different severities of Apraxia. 

Apraxia is a difficulty with motor planning for speech sound production.    Many of the children whom I treat for speech therapy have a form of Apraxia.  These children have difficulty imitating new words and have very unintelligible speech.  Children who do not have Apraxia, can hear a grown-up say a word and then say it.  Children with Apraxia often have to rehearse a word multiple times and still may not be able to say the word correctly.  This leads to frustration and often tantrums.

What can a parent do if they suspect their child has Apraxia?

First, have a speech and language evaluation to determine the diagnosis.

Second, introduce some baby signs to give your child a way to communicate immediately.  Start with signs that he would use for requesting, as this is the most motivating form of communication.  Kids love to sign “cookie” and receive a “cookie.”

Second, shorten the target words that you are trying to have your child imitate.  Think about words like: ball, cat, dog.  These words are less complex and will be easier to imitate.

Last, give your child multiple opportunities to rehearse the word until he achieves success.

And as always, keep it fun!

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