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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Apraxia: Symptoms, Causes, Tests, Treatments

What Are the Symptoms of Apraxia of Speech?

There are a variety of speech-related symptoms that can be associated with apraxia, including:

  • Difficulty stringing syllables together in the appropriate order to make words, or inability to do so
  • Minimal babbling during infancy
  • Difficulty saying long or complex words
  • 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 or stresses on certain sounds or words
  • Excessive use of nonverbal forms of communication
  • Distorting of vowel sounds
  • Omitting consonants at the beginnings and ends of words
  • Seeming to grope or struggle to make words

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

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

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.

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