A motor speech disorder, apraxia of speech occurs when the signals from the brain to mouth get disturbed leading to abnormal lip movement. In other words, the individual affected with this motor speech impairment cannot move the tongue at the right time to voice out the sounds exactly even though the muscles in and around are strong. The intensity of the ailment is directly dependent on the brain damage.
In some cases, this motor speech impairment can also occur because of dysarthia and aphasia. In dysarthia there is a weakness of the muscle that affects the speech. And in aphasia, language impairment occurs due to neurological damage.
In some cases, it is recorded that even children suffer from apraxia of speech.
What are the common symptoms of this condition?
People who are suffering from this ailment know what they want to say but there is a lack of co-ordination between the brain signals and the words produced from the mouth. The muscles become weak and the sounds produced are completely different from what they wish to say. For example: they wish to say chicken but the word produced is kitchen or something else entirely. On repeated attempts they might say the correct words, but it becomes quite frustrating for the individual.
Individuals experiencing apraxia of speech have the following symptoms:
Experience difficulty in producing the correct sounds when voicing a word. This is marked by word distortions, omissions of words or wrong pronunciation.
- Inconsistent word pronunciations
- Groping of the tongue to produce proper words with correct sounds
- Speech rate is relatively slow
- Intonation of the speech is not right with impaired rhythm
- Better automatic speech in comparison to well thought out speech
- Inability to say anything i.e. inability to produce any word
What leads to this ailment?
This ailment occurs when parts of the brain get damaged and in turn fail to control the muscle movement in a co-ordinated manner. Generally the apraxia of speech occurs after the individual has suffered from stroke or dementia, traumatic brain injury and even brain tumours or neurological disorders.
Is this ailment too common?
There is no definite research report regarding the number of individuals who suffer from this ailment. However, it is often seen that this speech impairment occurs in association with other communication disorders like aphasia.
How is Apraxia of Speech diagnosed?
One needs to visit speech language pathologist to find out whether they are suffering from apraxia of speech. The therapist generally uses a combination of formal and informal assessment tools to determine the nature, cause and severity of the speech impairment. The assessment procedure includes examining the oral motor abilities, sound produced at the time of speech delivery and the melody of the speech.
What is the possible treatment?
The therapist works in close association with the individual to ensure improvement in the speech abilities and the overall communication skills of the speaker. The main aim is to improve the planning, sequence of steps and co-ordination of muscle movement to ensure that the individual can speak like any other normal person.
It is often required to train and restrain the muscle movements when we speak so that proper sound is produced while talking and pronouncing words. There are several exercises designed around this concept that the individual needs to carry out under the supervision of the therapist.
In some cases, the therapist might recommend augmentative or alternative communication techniques.
If any of your loved ones is suffering from speech impairment, please seek the services of a speech language pathologist.