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Childhood apraxia of speech

Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is an uncommon speech disorder in which a child has difficulty making accurate movements when speaking. It's important to know that CAS is just a label for a speech disorder.

To speak correctly, your child's brain has to learn how to make plans that tell his or her speech muscles how to move the lips, jaw and tongue in ways that result in accurate sounds and words. Your child's brain also plans these movements so that he or she speaks with normal speed and rhythm.

In childhood apraxia of speech, the brain struggles to develop plans for speech movement. As a result, children with CAS don't learn accurate movements for speech with normal ease. In CAS, the speech muscles aren't weak, but they don't perform normally because the brain has difficulty directing or coordinating the movements.


Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Children with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) may have many speech symptoms or characteristics that vary depending on their age and the severity of their speech problems.

CAS can be associated with delayed onset of first words, a limited number of spoken words, or the ability to form only a few consonant or vowel sounds. These symptoms usually may be noticed between ages 18 months and 2 years, and may indicate suspected CAS.

As children produce more speech, usually between ages 2 and 4, characteristics that likely indicate CAS include vowel and consonant distortions; separation of syllables in or between words; and voicing errors, such as "pie" sounding like "bye."

Many children with CAS have difficulty getting their jaws, lips and tongues to the correct position to make a sound, and they may have difficulty moving smoothly to the next sound. /p>

Children vary in how quickly their speech improves, but with speech therapy many children with CAS develop understandable speech.

Many children with CAS also have language problems, such as difficulty comprehending speech, reduced vocabulary or difficulty with word order.

Some symptoms may primarily be seen in children with CAS and can be helpful to diagnose the problem. However, some symptoms of CAS are also symptoms of other types of speech or language disorders. It's difficult to diagnose CAS if a child has only symptoms that are found in both CAS and in other types of speech or language disorders.

Some characteristics, sometimes called markers, help distinguish CAS from other types of speech disorders. Those particularly associated with CAS include:

  • Difficulty moving smoothly from one sound, syllable or word to another
  • Groping movements with the jaw, lips or tongue to make the correct movement for speech sounds
  • Vowel distortions, such as attempting to use the correct vowel, but saying it incorrectly
  • Using the wrong stress in a word, such as pronouncing "banana" as "BUH-nan-uh" instead of "buh-NAN-uh"
  • Using equal emphasis on all syllables, such as saying "BUH-NAN-UH"
  • Separation of syllables, such as putting a pause or gap between syllables
  • Inconsistency, such as making different errors when trying to say the same word a second time
  • Difficulty imitating simple words
  • Inconsistent voicing errors, such as saying "down" instead of "town," or "zoo" instead of "Sue"

Other characteristics are seen in most children with speech or language problems and aren't helpful in distinguishing CAS. Characteristics seen in both children with CAS and in children with other types of speech or language disorders include:

  • Reduced amount of babbling or vocal sounds from ages 7 to 12 months old
  • Speaking first words late (after ages 12 to 18 months old)
  • Using a limited number of consonants and vowels
  • Frequently leaving out (omitting) sounds
  • Difficult to understand speech

Other speech disorders sometimes confused with CAS

Some speech sound disorders often get confused with CAS because some of the characteristics may overlap. These speech sound disorders include articulation disorders, phonologic disorders and dysarthria.

A child who has trouble learning how to make specific sounds, but doesn't have trouble planning or coordinating the movements to speak, may have an articulation or phonologic disorder. In an articulation disorder, a child has difficulty with specific sounds. He or she may leave out the sound or use another sound in its place. In phonologic disorders, a child has certain sound error patterns, such as difficulty producing sounds in the back of his or her mouth.

Articulation and phonologic disorders are more common than CAS.

Articulation or phonologic speech errors may include:

  • Substituting sounds, such as saying "fum" instead of "thumb," "wabbit" instead of "rabbit" or "tup" instead of "cup"
  • Leaving out (omitting) final consonants, such as saying "duh" instead of "duck" or "uh" instead of "up"
  • Stopping the airstream, such as saying "tun" instead of "sun" or "doo" instead of "zoo"
  • Simplifying sound combinations, such as saying "ting" instead of "string" or "fog" instead of "frog"

Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder that is due to weakness, spasticity or inability to control the speech muscles. Making speech sounds is difficult because the speech muscles can't move as far, as quickly or as strongly as normal. People with dysarthria may also have a hoarse, soft or even strained voice, or slurred or slow speech.

Dysarthria is often easier to identify than CAS. However, when dysarthria is caused by damage to certain areas of the brain that affect coordination, it can be difficult to determine the differences between CAS and dysarthria. In some children, both dysarthria and CAS are present.


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