Apraxia of Speech in Children

Apraxia of Speech in Children



Apraxia of speech (AOS) is also known as Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) when referring to children. There are two main types of apraxia of speech, depending on whether a person is born with apraxia of speech or it is acquired, more on this below.


Apraxia of speech is a speech disorder. If your child has been diagnosed with AOS or CAS, it means that their brain has difficulty coordinating the complex oral movements needed to create sounds into syllables, syllables into words and words into phrases.


How does apraxia of speech affect children?

AOS is a neurological disorder. It affects the brain pathways involved in planning the sequence of movements needed for speech. In apraxia of speech, the brain knows what it wants to say but cannot properly plan and sequence the required movements.


Other speech disorders can be caused by muscle weakness or paralysis where the muscles needed for speech – around the jaw, tongue and lips – don’t work as they should. This isn’t the case in speech apraxia.


The severity of apraxia of speech will vary from child to child. It can be very mild and cause trouble with only a few specific speech sounds or the pronunciation of specific words, often more complex words. In more severe apraxia of speech, a child may not be able to communicate verbally through speech.


What are the types of apraxia of speech?

There are two main types of apraxia of speech, they are:


Acquired apraxia of speech this can affect people of any age, including children but it is different from childhood apraxia of speech which is described below. Acquired apraxia of speech occurs when the parts of the brain that are involved in speaking are damaged. Acquired apraxia of speech is not present from birth and happens as a results of brain injury or other trauma.


Childhood Apraxia of speech – is present from birth. It can also be known as developmental apraxia of speech, developmental verbal apraxia, or articulatory apraxia. Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is different from developmental delays in speech in which a child follows typical speech development but more slowly than their peers.


What causes CAS?

The causes of childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) are not well understood. CAS appears to affect boys more than girls. Some research shows that genetic factors may play a role for children born with apraxia of speech.


What are the symptoms of apraxia of speech?

Children with apraxia of speech may demonstrate a number of different characteristics or symptoms that are noticeable when they speak. They can include:


  • Distorting sounds which makes pronouncing words correctly challenging. Longer and more complicated words are often more difficult to pronounce as well as vowels.
  • Making inconsistent errors in speech. For example your child might say a word correctly but then say it incorrectly when they repeat it over.
  • Groping for sounds, where your child appears to be struggling to find the right word or sound to express what they want or need to say. They may need several attempts before they say the word or sound that they are struggling with correctly.
  • Making errors in rhythm, tone or inflection is a common characteristic of AOS. Rhythm, tone and infection is used to express meaning, for example stressing particular words or syllables, pausing in a sentence or upwards inflection.  


How is apraxia of speech diagnosed?

Apraxia of speech is diagnosed by a university qualified speech pathologist. If your child displays some of the symptoms of apraxia of speech, their speech pathologist may first rule out other conditions and carry out an assessment before making a diagnosis of speech apraxia. During the assessment period, your child’s speech pathologist might ask your child to perform speech tasks like repeating specific words or lists of words. It’s helpful to know that a diagnosis may not happen immediately as sometimes your child’s speech pathologist may want to observe your child over a period of time.


What happens if my child is diagnosed with apraxia of speech?

If your child receives a diagnosis of apraxia of speech, treatment and therapy will be tailored to their needs. Treatment will take into account whether your child has acquired apraxia of speech or childhood apraxia of speech. Your child’s therapy program will also take into account whether your child has other speech disorders or conditions as well as apraxia of speech.


Where can I get further information about apraxia of speech?

You can get further information from your child’s speech pathologist or health team about apraxia of speech. You can also check out the following online resources:


Childhood Apraxia of Speech Support Australia

Speech Pathology Australia