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Apraxia

Our ability to not only comprehend what people are saying, but to be able to form coherent sentences, are often things we overlook. When it comes naturally, we hardly ever think about the process our brains go through that allows us to communicate with other people. Communication disorders refer to a broad range of conditions that affect an individual’s ability to understand, produce, or use language effectively. Communication disorders can impact one’s speech, language, voice, fluency, and even social communication. Apraxia of Speech (AOS) is one of the most common communication disorders.

Apraxia of Speech (AOS)

Apraxia is also a neurological condition, but it affects an individual’s ability to plan and execute voluntary or purposeful movements from their brain to their body. Apraxia of Speech (AOS) is apraxia specific to brain struggles with lip, jaw, and tongue movements. AOS is a speech sound disorder that makes it difficult to say what one wants to say correctly and consistently. The brain pathways that are required in planning the sequence of movements involved in producing speech are affected by AOS. It can be very frustrating because the brain knows what it wants to say but cannot properly plan and sequence the required speech sound movements. Its severity can vary widely among individuals, ranging from mild difficulties with speech production to severe impairment where one’s speech is nearly unintelligible.

Common symptoms of AOS include inconsistent errors in speech production, where some word may be pronounced differently each time its attempted, errors in speech sound substitutions, additions, or omissions, difficulty imitating speech sounds or repeating words or phrases, and preservation of automatic speech, such as counting or reciting familiar phrases. Children with AOS will not outgrow it on their own. However, there are many interventions that can help treat symptoms of AOS. Treatments vary depending on the severity of the disorder. AOS treatment typically consists of speech-language therapy, which aims to improve motor planning and coordination for speech production. This therapy may include exercises that work to strengthen oral muscles, practice with articulatory gestures, and works to improve speech motor planning and sequencing. Some may need to find additional ways to express themselves and often include formal or informal sign language, an electronic communication device like a phone or tablet, or a notebook with pictures and written words. Support from family and friends is very important in the treatment process as well. According to author James Carter, “A favorable environment is one the provides the child with adequate language exposure and stimulation, reinforces the child’s communicative attempts, and hold realistic expectations according to the child’s developmental stage.” In recent years the use of technology and brain stimulation has become more recognized in the treatment plan for apraxia. MeRT (Magnetic eResonance Therapy)  is a form of brain stimulation that helps the parts of the brain that are not communicating as they should. A brain that is functioning optimally can lead to dramatic improvements and learning along with the traditional forms of therapy for Apraxia of Speech. To learn more about MeRT and its side effects, you can read our blog here.

Apraxia of Speech significantly impacts an individual’s ability to communicate effectively, which can cause impairments in academic, social, and occupational areas of life. However, early identification and treatment can help individuals with AOS improve their speech production skills and enhance their quality of life.

MeRT machine render