Apraxia: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment options

What Is Apraxia?

Apraxia is a neurological condition which affects motor movements. People with apraxia find it hard to make certain motor movements, even though their muscles are normal. When apraxia is in a mild form, it is called dyspraxia.

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One form of apraxia is called orofacial apraxia which makes it hard to voluntarily perform certain movements involving facial muscles like winking or licking lips.

Another form of apraxia affects a person’s ability to intentionally move arms and legs.

Apraxia of speech occurs when a person find it hard to move their mouth and tongue to speak.

Types of Apraxia of Speech

There are two forms of apraxia of speech:

  • Acquired apraxia: Though this can affect people of all ages, but is more likely to affect adults. This condition causes people to lose the speech-making abilities they once possessed.
  • Developmental apraxia: This is also known as childhood apraxia of speech. This condition is present from birth, and it affects a child’s ability to form words and sounds. Children with speech apraxia often have greater abilities to understand speech than to express themselves with spoken words.

Difference Between Apraxia of Speech and Aphasia

Aphasia is another communication disorder which is often confused with apraxia simply because the two conditions can occur together.

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People with apraxia and aphasia find it hard to express themselves with words. However, the distinct differences between the two is:

  • Aphasia describes a problem in a person’s ability to comprehend or use words in and of themselves. People with this condition find it hard to speak, read, or write.
  • Apraxia does not describe a problem with language understanding. It refers to the difficulty someone has initiating and performing the movements needed to make speech. This difficulty arises in spite of the fact that there is no feebleness in the needed muscles.

Symptoms of Apraxia of Speech

Speech-related symptoms that can be associated with apraxia include:

  • Difficulty lacing syllables together in the proper order to form words, or inability to do so
  • Least babbling during infancy
  • Difficulty pronouncing long or complex words
  • Extreme use of nonverbal communication
  • Repeated attempts at pronunciation of words
  • Speech inconsistencies, such as being able to say a sound or word properly at certain times but not others
  • Incorrect inflections
  • Struggling to form words
  • Twisting of vowel sounds
  • Omitting consonants at the beginnings and ends of words

Childhood apraxia of speech occurs alone. It is often accompanied by other language or mental deficits, which may cause:

  • Clumsiness
  • Limited vocabulary
  • Grammatical hitches
  • Problems with coordination and fine motor skills
  • Problems with chewing and swallowing

Apraxia of Speech Causes

Acquired apraxia is caused by brain damage to those areas of the brain that control the ability to communicate. Conditions that may produce acquired apraxia include stroke, head trauma, or a brain tumor.

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Experts are yet to fully understand what causes childhood apraxia of speech. Some believes it is caused by signaling problems between the brain and the muscles for speech.

Tests to Diagnose Apraxia of Speech

Apraxia of speech does not have a single test or procedure that is used for diagnosis. Diagnosis is complicated by the fact that speech-language pathologists have different views about which symptoms indicate developmental apraxia.

However, some speech-language pathologist look for the presence of multiple, common apraxia symptoms. They may evaluate a patient’s ability to repeat a word multiple times. Or they may assess whether a person can recite a list of words that are increasingly more difficult.

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An expert may interact with a child to evaluate which sounds, syllables, and words the child is able to make and understand by examining the tongue, face, and mouth of the child.

Another symptom experts check for is weakness or difficulties with language understanding. Both of these are tell-tale of other conditions and their presence would help rule out apraxia.

An MRI of the brain may help check the extent and location of any brain damage for people with possible acquired apraxia.

Treatments for Apraxia of Speech

For acquired apraxia, the condition resolves naturally in some cases. However, this is not same with developmental apraxia of speech, which cannot resolve on its own without treatment.

Apraxia treatment must be developed to meet a given individual’s needs. Most children with apraxia of speech benefit from meeting one on one with a speech-language pathologist three to five times a week. They may also need to work with their parents or guardians to practice the skills they are developing.

The objective of childhood apraxia therapy is to improve speech coordination. Exercises may include:

  • Practicing the formation and pronunciation of sounds and words repeatedly
  • Practicing stringing together sounds to form speech
  • Working with rhythms or melodies
  • Using multisensory approaches, like watching in a mirror while trying to form words or touching the face while talking

People with more extreme cases of acquired apraxia may get help from sign language or the use of assistive electronic devices to produce words and sentences.


Image source: healthjade.com

Article source: webmd


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