Apraxia is a speech disorder which makes it difficult for a person to speak in a manner which is formed correctly and consistent. This may be a developmental problem or caused by some damage to the part of the brain responsible for speech. This disorder ranges from mild to severe depending on the individual.
Acquired apraxia usually occurs because of some injury or damage to the area of the brain responsible for speech. While this does sometimes occur in children, it is widely an adult disorder. This form of speech apraxia will affect the speech skills which the person previously possessed. It may be the result of a stroke, injury or illness.
Developmental apraxia is a delay in the development of speech in a child. A child with developmental apraxia will follow the same speech development path of other children but will do so at a significantly slower rate. Children with this disorder generally have relatives with some form of learning or speech difficulty which suggests that there is likely a genetic link. Unlike acquired apraxia, this is not the result of any kind of injury or damage and the causes are not fully understood.
In either form of apraxia, there will be a noticeable difficulty with formation of speech. Longer words may be incredibly difficult to put together. It is also indicative of apraxia if a person is struggling to put sounds or syllables in the correct order to form words.
Children with developmental apraxia may also display other problems which coexist with their apraxia. These may include developmental delay in reading, writing and math as well as difficulty with coordination, chewing and swallowing.
A specialist treating a person with suspected speech apraxia will first rule out the possibility of any other potential issues such as muscle weakness or difficulty comprehending language. These will be ruled out by asking the individual to perform several speech tests. They may also advise that the patient undergo an MRI to rule out any other speech disorders.
In cases of acquired apraxia, it is possible that the individual may spontaneously regain most or all their speech abilities without any treatment. This is not the case with developmental apraxia should be treated with speech therapy custom designed to suit the needs of that individual. Speech therapy may also be an invaluable tool for those who do not recover from acquired apraxia by themselves. The results vary for each patient depending on severity and alternate forms of communication such as sign language may be an option worth considering.
In all cases of this disorder, encouragement and support are vital. This is an incredibly frustrating and trying ailment for both the patient and those around them. With time and patience, the perfect course of action to encourage progress in the individual’s speech will become apparent.
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