Mispronouncing words is a typical part of language development. Many parents love that adorable stage where a child might say “p’sketti” for spaghetti or “compooter” for computer. Errors like this are a normal part of learning language and typically nothing to worry about. However, for some children, speech errors may be much more severe and pervasive, making their speech nearly unintelligible. There are a range of issues that can cause speech problems. Today we’ll talk about one of these: childhood apraxia of speech (CAS).
Producing language requires several steps: thinking of the words you want to say and the sounds they include, sending a message from the brain to the speech muscles (i.e., the muscles that move the tongue, lips, and jaw), and then using those muscles to produce the sounds of the word. Childhood apraxia of speech involves a problem in that second step: sending a message from the brain to the speech muscles. Even though the child knows the word and sounds they want to say and they have no problems with the speech muscles themselves, speech errors happen because the brain has trouble sending the right signals to the speech muscles. Speech-pathologists call this type of issue a motor speech disorder.
How can you tell if your child might have childhood apraxia of speech? No two children with CAS speak exactly alike, but there are many symptoms that are common across children, including:
- delayed first words
- words that contain only a few different consonant and vowel sounds
- inconsistent sound errors that are not the result of immaturity
- the ability to understand language much better than he or she can talk
- difficulty imitating speech, but imitated speech is clearer than spontaneous speech
- groping when attempting to produce sounds
- difficulty saying longer words or phrases
- increased difficulty speaking when anxious
- speech that is choppy, monotonous, or stresses the wrong syllable or word
If your child experiences several of these problems, contact a licensed speech-language pathologist for a full evaluation. The earlier a child with apraxia of speech gets speech therapy, the more improvement they’re likely to see.
Check in with us again next week when we’ll talk about some of the ways a speech-language pathologist can help a child with apraxia of speech communicate better!
If you have any questions or would like to know more about speech-language therapy, give us a call at (212) 308-7725 or send an e-mail to email@example.com. I’d be happy to chat and answer any questions you may have.
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