Apraxia of Speech

Also known as: childhood apraxia of speech, CAS, AOS.

What is apraxia of speech?

Apraxia is a neurological (brain related) disorder in which children have difficulty with some muscle movements. There are a number of forms of apraxia; one form is called orofacial apraxia where children are unable to voluntarily move some face muscles or in another form, cannot voluntarily move arm or leg muscles. All may occur in a mild or severe form.

There are two types of apraxia:

  • Childhood (developmental or childhood apraxia of speech) where the mouth and tongue cannot be moved voluntarily (there is no weakness or paralysis of the muscles) even though the child wants to speak.This results in a speech sound defect affecting the child’s ability to form words or sounds.
  • Acquired apraxia (which often occurs in adults).

What causes apraxia of speech? 

The cause of apraxia of speech occurs is not clearly known; it appears to be due to problems in the part of the brain that controls the ability to speak or the messaging pathways between the brain and muscles. As family members may have a history of a communication or learning problem, and boys are often more affected, there may be a genetic component.

Acquired apraxia may result from a stroke, brain tumor or brain injury or other brain abnormalities.

What are the symptoms of apraxia of speech?

Early on (childhood apraxia of speech is present from birth) there may be minimal babbling during infancy; later delayed speech, trouble making certain sounds, difficulty saying longer words, distortion of words which as they grow older, the difficulty with certain words or sounds becomes more pronounced.

Frequently childhood apraxia of speech is accompanied by other language or brain functioning (cognitive) deficits.

What are apraxia of speech care options?

Children do not outgrow childhood apraxia of speech and need ongoing, regular one-on-one speech-language therapy sessions with a speech pathologist.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: August 11, 2023 03:23 PM

Pediatric Neurology

The Division of Pediatric Neurology is dedicated to the management and treatment of neurological disorders in babies, children and adolescents.

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