Apraxia: Symptoms, Causes, Tests, Treatments
What Causes Apraxia of Speech?
Acquired apraxia results from brain damage to those areas of the brain that control the ability to speak. Conditions that may produce acquired apraxia include head trauma, stroke, or a brain tumor.
Experts do not yet understand what causes childhood apraxia of speech. Some scientists believe that it results from signaling problems between the brain and the muscles used for speaking.
Ongoing research is focusing on whether brain abnormalities that cause apraxia of speech can be identified. Other research is looking for genetic causes of apraxia. Some studies are trying to determine exactly which parts of the brain are linked to the condition.
Are There Tests to Diagnose Apraxia of Speech?
There is not a single test or procedure that is used to diagnose apraxia of speech. Diagnosis is complicated by the fact that speech-language pathologists have different opinions about which symptoms indicate developmental apraxia.
Most experts, though, look for the presence of multiple, common apraxia symptoms. They may assess 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, such as "play, playful, playfully."
A speech-language pathologist may interact with a child to assess which sounds, syllables, and words the child is able to make and understand. The pathologist will also examine the child's mouth, tongue, and face for any structural problems that might be causing apraxia symptoms.
When diagnosing apraxia, experts may look for the presence of other symptoms. For instance, they may look for weakness or difficulties with language comprehension. Both of these are indicative of other conditions and their presence would help rule out apraxia. For people with possible acquired apraxia, an MRI of the brain may be useful to determine the extent and location of any brain damage.
Typically, a diagnosis of childhood apraxia of speech cannot be made before a child's second birthday. Before this time, most children are unable to understand or perform the tasks needed to determine the presence of apraxia.
Are There Treatments for Apraxia of Speech?
In some cases of acquired apraxia, the condition resolves spontaneously. This is not the case with developmental apraxia of speech, which does not go away without treatment.
There are various treatment approaches used for apraxia. How effective they are can vary from person to person. For the best results, 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.
Therapy for childhood apraxia of speech aims to improve speech coordination. Exercises may include:
- Repeatedly practicing the formation and pronunciation of sounds and words
- Practicing stringing together sounds to make speech
- Working with rhythms or melodies
- Using multisensory approaches, such as watching in a mirror while trying to form words or touching the face while talking