What is dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia (or Apraxia) is a motor speech disorder. It is characterised by an inability to correctly sequence muscle movements required for speech production. It occurs when there is a breakdown in neural messages sent from the brain to the speech muscles (muscles of the lips, tongue, palate, jaw and larynx). As a result, speech intelligibility can be significantly reduced and limit a person’s participation in everyday communicative activities. It is not due to muscle weakness, sensory loss or difficulties with language comprehension.
In adults, apraxia is acquired following damage to sections of the brain that are involved in speech production. This damage may occur as a result of stoke, traumatic brain injury, tumour or other neurogenic illnesses. Dyspraxia can co-occur with muscle weakness affecting speech production (dysarthria) and/or language difficulties as a result of brain injury – aphasia.
Symptoms and signs
Dyspraxia is characterised by difficulty in forming sounds in the appropriate sequence to construct words and phrases. This often appears as a ‘groping’ or effortful behaviour, in which the person has difficulty coordinating mouth movements to articulate sounds.
- Difficulty initiating or ‘starting’ words or sentences.
- Changes in prosody, specifically, irregular use of stress, rhythm, intonation and cadence of speech.
- Longer words (which contain more syllables) are typically more difficult to produce.
- Speech sound errors are usually inconsistent; the person is able to produce a word in one instance, but may then have difficulty repeating that same word.
- A person with dyspraxia can typically hear their speech errors and attempt to self correct.
Apraxia of speech can be diagnosed by a speech pathologist. Following diagnosis, a therapy management plan can be developed to maximise communication and clarity of speech. If you or a family member need assistance and treatment for dyspraxia contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist. We‘ll provide you with a straightforward, efficient and very effective treatment plan targeted to your concerns.