Developmental apraxia of speech is a disorder in which children have a difficult time getting all the body parts involved in speech to work together automatically and smoothly. Although it is impossible to diagnose verbal apraxia until a child is old enough to follow commands and interact with the evaluating speech and language therapist there are some early symptoms. Affected children may not babble or coo during infancy. They may be later than other children when it comes to saying their first words. Sounds may be missing from words. They may have difficulty blending sounds together or may have only a few vowel and consonant sounds in their repertoire. Children with developmental apraxia of speech are inclined to use easier sounds to replace the ones that are difficult for them. They may also have problems eating.
Symptoms of developmental apraxia of speech in older children include difficulty speaking spontaneously and difficulty imitating what someone else says. The child may exhibit expressive language disorder, meaning that they understand language at a higher level than they are able to express verbally. Developmental apraxia of speech is also a fluency disorder in which speech is halting or choppy. The child can be observed struggling to make sounds or go get the jaw, lips and tongue to work together to produce the desired sound.
If you notice these symptoms in your child, have a discussion with the pediatrician. If there is no medical cause, such as weakness in the muscles responsible for speech, then ask for a referral to a speech professional. After a thorough evaluation, the speech therapist will make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. A child who has developmental apraxia of speech will need to see a therapist several times a week. The parents will also need to practice with the child at home. The goal of therapy is to help the child plan, learn the order, and coordinate the muscles that are used for speech. With therapy and practice, the child can make significant progress.