Apraxia is a motor speech disorder which affects voluntary or learned motor acts. Caused by any damage, or lesion, to the area of the brain responsible for performing these acts, apraxia may or may not exist with a language disorder and can affect any part of the body. If we focus on apraxia affecting communication, apraxia can be oral, verbal, or developmental.
What is oral apraxia?
In oral apraxia the client has difficulty performing non-speech tasks with muscles in the throat, tongue, or cheeks. Reflexive or automatic tasks are intact, but the client is usually unable to carry out specific directions when asked. For example the client may open his mouth when asked to close his eyes or say the word “blow” when asked to blow out a match. It is not uncommon for a client with apraxia to insist he has elicited the correct movement when no movement has been made at all. Many of the responses can be considered strange, while the client may be completely unaware of any abnormality.
What is verbal apraxia?
Verbal apraxia is defined as difficulty executing the appropriate movements for speech when paralysis, weakness, or incoordination exist. As a result, clients with apraxia may have extreme difficulty making speech movements. Such impairments may lead to the omission, distortion, or replacement of certain sounds. Errors often increase as the length of the word or sentence increases. Initiating speech can be almost impossible. Repetition of phrases may be inconsistent and the overall quality of the sounds the client produces may be poor.
How can speech therapy help?
A speech therapist can provide strategies and feedback on the production of sounds in words and sentences. Therapy consists of creating awareness of errors, practicing target sounds, and learning to utilize compensatory strategies for communication.