Childhood apraxia of speech

When we think of childhood diseases, we think of the old standbys like measles, mumps, chicken pox and the common cold. Or we think of birth defects such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida – syndromes that people are born with and, like it are not, often manifest themselves physically in the inability to walk or function in some way. What we do not often think of is mental disorders that manifest prominently but cannot be seen physically in the same way that the more commonly thought of disorders can. One of these “invisible disorders” is childhood apraxia of speech.

Childhood apraxia of speech is a neurological disorder. It is characterized by the inability or loss of ability to speak. There are other forms of apraxia as well (the “a” in apraxia coming from the Greek prefix meaning “without”), and each are characterized by the inability or loss of ability to carry out learned purposeful movements. Childhood apraxia of speech is considered a motor disorder, specifically a disorder of motor planning. This means that the child may want to speak and know how to speak, but simply finds him or herself unable to take the action of speaking. For a child to be diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech, tests must show that the child is not uncoordinated with her tongue or mouth, suffering from sensory loss, or failing to comprehend simple commands. No, children with apraxia are simply unable to take the action of speaking.

A quick note – apraxia should not be confused with aphasia, which is a speech disorder. Though childhood apraxia of speech does, of course, effect speech, aphasia is the total inability to produce and comprehend language. Sufferers from childhood apraxia of speech can comprehend language, but just can’t speak themselves. Now, that is not to say that apraxia cannot be accompanied by aphasia.

Childhood apraxia of speech is characterized by a few key symptoms. First, children may suffer from inconsistent speech errors (that is, errors not commonly associated with young children learning to talk.) They may also have to grope more than usual to shape their mouths into the correct position for speech. When dealing with long words or phrases, they may find themselves making more and more errors as the word or phrase stretches out.

When a child is able to speak normally and then loses that ability, the disorder is called acquired childhood apraxia of speech. This can be the result of an accident or other trauma, or even a neurological illness. Adults also suffer from acquired apraxia of speech.

So how is childhood apraxia of speech treated or cured? Childhood apraxia of speech is most often treated with therapy. This can include physical therapy, occupation therapy, and speech therapy. Treatment is mean to help children successfully overcome the inability to shape and articulate words.

Another, less well-known and well research treatment, has been reported, at least anecdotally, to have had some success in younger children. This treatment combines fish oils and the vitamins E and K. Though these treatments have been reported as successful, it is important to keep in mind that they have not been clinically studied. There have been no double blind placebo clinical trials on this treatment (those types of trials being the most rigorous and trustworthy), so it is not a good idea to take the vitamin E and K cure for childhood apraxia of speech as a given at this time.

As for the prognosis for childhood apraxia of speech, this varies. Many children can be treated with therapy and improve significantly, while, on the other hand, some children never improve. Some are benefitted by the use of a communication aid.

Last updated on Oct 30th, 2009 and filed under Other Conditions & Diseases. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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