Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is an uncommon speech disorder in which a child has difficulty making accurate movements when speaking. In CAS, the brain struggles to develop plans for speech movement. With this disorder, the speech muscles aren’t weak, but they don’t perform normally because the brain has difficulty directing or coordinating the movements. To speak correctly, your child’s brain has to learn how to make plans that tell his or her speech muscles how to move the lips, jaw and tongue in ways that result in accurate sounds and words spoken with normal speed and rhythm.
Children who have CAS have difficulty with production in saying sounds, syllables or words. Muscle weakness or paralysis does not cause CAS, it is caused when the brain doesn’t connect well with body parts like lips, jaw or tongue which are necessary for correct speech production. Most children know exactly what they want to express.
Some tools used with children as an alternative to form speech approximations are sign language or an Alternative Communication System (AAC) device. Some families fear that using tools like signing or AAC devices will replace all forms of communication, however that is not the case with CAS. CAS can be very difficult and frustrating for the child and having an alternative aide can be very helpful. When speech production is improved, then the need for alternative support systems will reduce.
A crucial component of supporting your child’s improvement of speech is practicing at home and educating family members about CAS. Children with CAS need a supportive environment that helps them feel productive with communication. At Team4kids you will receive assignments “homework” to help your child’s progress to apply at home and in other settings in order to assure maximum development in therapy. Remember treatment of apraxia of speech takes time and dedication and will not happen overnight but with persistence and consistency, your child will improve his or her communication! Spread awareness and educate others of CAS during the month of May, which is Apraxia Awareness Month.
Diana Salazar, SLPA