Apraxia of speech is a problem of speech output. The child has very limited speech and the sounds they say are not always consistently produced. Apraxia is considered a motor speech impairment and not a lack of vocabulary. The brain of someone with apraxia is not able to plan and produce sound sequences that result in speech. Usually when a person wishes to create speech, the brain sends messages to the speech muscles (lips, tongue, palate, muscles of the jaw and throat) about the desired movement in terms of strength, timing and order. With apraxia there is a disconnection and the instructions from the brain are not followed.
What I have found it helpful in apraxia therapy to always be aware that each child responds differently to various techniques used. Therefore, a toolbox of techniques is needed in order to find which technique works best for each child. Your speech pathologist will assist you with planning what specific sounds and words to practice with your child.
Below are some general suggestions for parents that they can make part of their daily interactions with their child to foster speech and motor control.
- Encourage your child to participate in motor coordination activities. I especially like activities that use rhythm such as clapping to sounds, dancing, jumping rope and swimming. These activities help lay the process of motor patterns.
- Although singing is not the same process as speech, I have seen children build confidence and respiratory control from joining in with singing activities. Plus, the children seem to have fun and enjoy singing many of the silly kid’s songs.
- Frequent practice matters. Get your practice time in throughout your day. Practice saying sounds, words and singing in the car. Talking practice should occur at regularly planned times throughout your day such as before a meal, at story time and prior to the start of a desired play activity. Have a set number of trials in mind to achieve before stopping (i.e. Katie will vocalize in imitation 3 times during the car ride). Also, try and have a regular 10 – 15 minutes of dedicated talking and listening time each day.
- Model speech that is just one-step ahead of your child’s speech. If your child has no speech, work on making animated and fun sounds. If your child has some vowel sounds, use two sounds together. If your child is using single words, begin using two word statements.
- Respond faster to new and closer word approximations that your child makes. For example, your child typically requests “u” for juice, and one day hear him produce a more refined “use”, hurry and get his juice a little faster. This helps to reinforce new and improved speech production.
- Stop asking questions, many questions will slow speech (What’s this?). Start making statements that your child can echo back (cup for drinking).