Apraxia is a motor function disorder that causes problems with different parts of the body, depending on how it manifests. Apraxia is often associated with a head injury, as in the case of a car wreck or other trauma. While apraxia may affect the legs or arms in some cases, it often manifests in what is called apraxia of speech or verbal apraxia.
People who have apraxia of speech have trouble making the right speech sounds or uttering the right words when they want to speak. People with this disorder do not have any trouble thinking of what they want to say, only with actually getting the words out of their mouths.
To assume that someone with apraxia of speech is unintelligent is like thinking that someone with paralysis in an arm just does not know how to write his or her name. People with apraxia of speech have plenty of knowledge and intelligence. If you give a verbal apraxia patient another means to communicate – such as typing or writing notes – you’ll notice that they can “speak” just fine. They just have trouble speaking with their mouths.
Verbal Apraxia Symptoms
In the case of verbal apraxia (or apraxia of speech), the patient will know exactly what he or she wants to say, but his or her brain will have difficulty making the connections to “tell” his or her mouth which muscles to move to make the right sounds. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, when someone with apraxia of speech says the word “kitchen”, it may come out sounding like “bipem”.
People with apraxia of speech have difficulty mimicking speech sounds, and they may have trouble making movements with their mouths, such as sticking out the tongue. Someone with this disorder will pause or grope for the right sound when attempting to speak. In severe cases, they may not be able to make any sound at all. Errors in speech may be inconsistent. They won’t always have trouble saying the same words. Finally, most people with verbal apraxia speak at a much slower rate than normal.
Speech-language pathologists have been working on helping people with verbal apraxia for years, now. Most treatments are based on retraining the muscles around the mouth and vocal cords to function properly. A speech-language pathologist may have someone with verbal apraxia repeat exercises making the same sound over and over again until it becomes natural and easy to do.
Speech-language pathologists will also work with patients on pacing their speech. People with verbal apraxia often need to work on slowing down their speech so that their brains can send the right signals to their mouths and vocal muscles.
In less severe cases, the patient may, after enough speech therapy, be able to speak normally again. In severe cases, though, an alternative mode of communication is brought in. Some verbal apraxia patients cannot make any noises with their mouths or throats anymore and so must use an alternative communication method, such as typing, with or without a text to speech option, depending on the type of communication they must perform.
If you have questions about speech language therapy contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist. We see adults and children for speech and language therapy. Contact us today!