Speech Apraxia is a disorder in which people are unable to produce speech fluently or accurately. It can be caused by damage, developmental delays, or neurological conditions like autism and stroke. In this blog I explore the connections between these two disorders as well as how they affect communication skills in autistic children.
The “apraxia of speech in adults” is a common condition that affects many people. There are many different types of apraxia, and understanding the connection between these conditions can help you to better understand your child’s symptoms.
Autism and speech apraxia are closely connected comorbid disorders. Children who have one disorder should be tested for the other.
Children with autism may be diagnosed with the developmental disorder from an early age, when their ability to create words and phrases is limited. Working with your doctor to determine when your kid need the services of a speech therapist is critical.
Speech therapy is usually administered in tandem to behavior therapy, which is the most common method of autism treatment. Including speech therapy in your child’s treatment plan may assist them in learning how to convey their needs to others.
What Is the Relationship Between Autism and Speech Apraxia?
Speech apraxia, also known as apraxia of speech, verbal apraxia, childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), or acquired apraxia of speech, is a sound disease that affects people’s ability to communicate verbally. This issue makes it difficult for a person to state what they want out loud, clearly, and consistently.
This problem is caused by a neurological abnormality that affects brain circuits involved in planning the jaw muscle motions needed to create spoken words. This is commonly defined as the brain understanding language and sentence structure and composing what it wants to say, but being unable to correctly plan out the sequence of words to produce speech. Rather of being nonverbal, a person with apraxia uses some kind of spoken language.
Because the degree of apraxia varies, some persons may be able to talk with minor stuttering while others may need substantial assistance to finish phrases. The following are some of the signs and symptoms of apraxia:
- Sounds, particularly vowels, are distorted. The speaker tries to arrange the speech components, such as the tongue, in the correct position. Longer, more complicated words are more difficult to learn than short, basic terms.
- Speech mistakes that are inconsistent. This may present itself in a variety of ways, such as speaking a difficult word properly the first time but wrong the second, or having difficulty with one sound one day but not the next.
- I’m looking for noises. The individual may repeat a word many times before getting it properly, or they may struggle to discover the proper pronunciation for a term.
- Rhythm, stress, and tone errors. This is referred to as prosody. The individual is more prone to place equal emphasis on syllables, remove syllables in words or phrases, segment syllables in a word, or stop incorrectly when it comes to inflection and rhythm.
Children with speech apraxia often comprehend language at the same level as their peers, but they are unable to utilize it at that level. They could also struggle with physical skills and expressive language, such as gestures.
Speech-language pathologists diagnose apraxia. They examine the cluster of symptoms and rule out any underlying reasons such as muscular weakness, language issues (aphasia), or other underlying causes. A speech-language pathologist may also assist with apraxia treatment.
Formal apraxia testing may include:
- Using a certain term multiple times.
- Repeating a list of words, such as love, loving, and tenderly, in increasing length.
- The capacity to read, chat, write, or execute non-speech gestures is being tested.
Apraxia and autism are both speech and communication problems, however they are not the same thing. According to a recent scientific research, up to 65 percent of children with autism suffer speech apraxia. This implies that when children with autism begin speaking, they should be evaluated for apraxia.
Autism & Apraxia Are Closely Comorbid Conditions
In the United States, one out of every 54 children has autism, and one out of every 1,000 children has apraxia.
Because apraxia may be difficult to identify in children with autism, the evaluation with a speech-language pathologist may require many sessions. Because using numerous sessions with a kid on the autism spectrum lessens their stress, getting an accurate diagnosis across multiple sessions may be simpler.
It might potentially take a few years to acquire a good evaluation from a speech-language pathologist. Autism is diagnosed in children between the ages of one year and four years, with the typical diagnostic age being two.
However, children are still developing language skills at this age, and they may not be able to communicate effectively enough for a speech therapist to identify a speech issue. The therapist may urge the kid to replicate their sounds or repeat phrases, which requires more comprehension than a toddler, particularly one with a developmental problem like autism, possesses.
The goal of the research, which discovered a high prevalence of apraxia in children with autism, was to see whether the diagnostic criteria for autism were overemphasizing speech and language production by mistake, resulting to multiple apraxia misdiagnoses. According to the study’s findings, 63.6 percent of children identified with autism also had apraxia; 36.8% of children diagnosed with apraxia also had autism; 23.3 percent of children had neither; and 23.3 percent of children had both and were diagnosed with both at the same time. The autism test has a diagnosis precision of 96.7 percent.
Children with apraxia and children with autism were not misdiagnosed with the other illness, according to the findings. Better pediatric screening for both illnesses might help children who were suffering from both at the same time.
Autism Treatment for Children With Apraxia
Autism Treatment for Children With Apraxia will likely be separate from behavior therapy, but treatment can occur concurrently. The goals of apraxia treatment include:
Speech and occupational therapists will collaborate with your child’s behavior therapist to develop a treatment plan that includes collaborating with and supporting parents. The speech pathologist or therapist may focus on improving your child’s communication abilities using the following techniques, depending on the degree of your child’s apraxia and autism.
- Visual aids and communication aids are available. Other gadgets may be utilized if your kid fails to finish words or phrases to the point that they are unable to communicate adequately. When your kid or teenager is unable to communicate vocally, picture cards or a voice-generating computer tablet may assist.
- Cueing via gestures. While a parent or therapist touches the kid’s mouth while making a sound, the youngster is taught to shape their lips and tongue in certain ways when making words. If youngsters can’t translate what they hear into a shape for their mouth, this sort of visual clue may help them grasp where sounds come from.
- Vocabulary-building tools Children with autism who are able to communicate may acquire simple words and phrases that will help them in their everyday life. Parents and therapists may collaborate to choose which words, such as “mom” and “dad,” or phrases like as “I’m hungry,” to employ on a daily basis. The particular words and phrases vary according on the child’s age and ability to speak and recall.
Speech therapists will use a mix of these techniques, as well as a thorough awareness of the requirements of each kid. As the kid improves in therapy and develops greater linguistic abilities, treatment plans may be altered on a regular basis.
Support Groups for Families of Children With Apraxia & Autism
There are several resources available for children with autism and apraxia, as well as their parents. Here are a few national resources to assist you in obtaining the assistance you require:
- Apraxia Kids: This organization has a support group of its own, as well as a reference website with a list of hundreds of additional support groups.
- PennState Health Children’s Hospital has a website with information on their parent support group as well as connections to literature on apraxia, autism, and other comorbid disorders.
- Autism Speaks: This national advocacy organization maintains a list of current support groups for autistic persons and their families.
The Following Steps
The first step in determining if your kid has co-occurring speech apraxia and autism is to get an accurate diagnosis. Discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor. They could recommend you to a professional for a more formal diagnosis.
You may start obtaining your kid the therapy he or she needs after you have a diagnosis. Both behavior treatment and speech therapy are often used in this setting.
Speech apraxia is a condition in which a person’s ability to speak (October 2017). The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) is a federal agency that studies deafness and other (NIDCD).
Apraxia of Speech in Children with Autism: Recognizing and Treating It Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about
Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder. (March 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When a child has apraxia of speech, how valid is the Autism Spectrum Disorder Checklist? (Updated October 2015). The Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics is a publication dedicated to the study of children’s development and behavior.
Speech apraxia in children. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving communication skills (ASHA).
The “early signs of childhood apraxia of speech” is a condition that affects the development of speech. It often goes undetected until children are in their early teens.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is speech apraxia?
A: Speech apraxia is a neurological disorder that affects the ability to produce or comprehend speech.
What are the 3 types of apraxia?
A: Apraxia is a speech and language disorder that makes it difficult for the person to produce correct sounds, but not difficulty with understanding. There are 3 types of apraxia; articulation, phonology, and listening comprehension.
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Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.