Aphasia vs Apraxia: Differences You Should Know

by Team Stamurai

First things first, let's understand the basics before we dive into the ‘Aphasia vs Apraxia’ debate.

What Is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a condition or disorder that results from injury or damage to the areas of the brain responsible for the processing and production of language.

Aphasia is typically not a developmental condition. It occurs suddenly. A stroke or traumatic brain injury can cause aphasia. In rare cases, it may develop slowly as a result of growing brain tumors or neurodegenerative disorders/diseases.

This disorder affects expressive and receptive languages. An individual with aphasia may have difficulties expressing their thoughts and have trouble understanding spoken and written language.

Aphasia may co-occur with Apraxia of Speech or dysarthria.

What Is Apraxia of Speech?

Apraxia of Speech (AOS) is a neuromotor speech disorder. An individual with Apraxia of Speech has difficulties in saying what they want to say consistently and correctly.

A child may have Apraxia of Speech since birth or developmentally. In such cases, it is known as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS).

Muscle weakness is not the cause of CAS. It may be due to neurological disorders that affect the pathways and planning of speech production in the brain.

Aphasia vs. Apraxia: What’s The Difference?

Since aphasia and Apraxia of Speech are both lesser-known co-occurring disorders, it is easy to confuse the two.

Therefore, it is important to learn what distinguishes Aphasia from Apraxia of Speech.

Aphasia vs. Apraxia: Causes

Causes of Aphasia

Damage to the language area(s) of the brain can cause aphasia. Commonly, the cause is a stroke, traumatic brain injuries, or neurodegenerative diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Causes of Apraxia of Speech

Apraxia of Speech can be due to damage to the areas of the brain responsible for speech. A stroke, head trauma, or brain tumor that damages the speech production and processing areas of the brain may also cause Apraxia of Speech.

The cause of Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is not yet known. It may have a number of possible causes ranging from genetics to injury, but determining the etiology may not be possible for each case.

Aphasia vs. Apraxia: Different Types

What Are The Different Types Of Aphasia?

The more common types of aphasia include –

  1. Wernicke's aphasia – the person can speak and use long sentences. However, what they say may not make sense.
  2. Broca’s aphasia – the individual may not be able to find or say the right words although they know what they want to say.
  3. Anomic aphasia – the person is unable to find the words they want to talk about, particularly nouns and verbs.
  4. Primary progressive aphasia – it is a result of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s. The affected individual may gradually lose their ability to read, write, speak and understand spoken language.

What Are The Different Types Of Apraxia Of Speech?

1. Acquired AOS – it can affect anyone irrespective of age and gender. It can be a result of a stroke or traumatic injury to the brain. A fluent speaker may suffer damage/injury to parts of the brain involved in speaking resulting in acquired AOS during adulthood.

2. Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) – it is a developmental condition. The causes of CAS are not well understood. Imaging studies have not found any evidence of brain damage or trauma in children who have CAS.

Aphasia vs. Apraxia: Symptoms

What Are The Symptoms Of Aphasia?

The symptoms of aphasia can vary depending on the area and the extent of the damage. The symptoms also depend upon the different types of aphasia.

Some of the common possible symptoms include –

  • Problems naming objects, people, places, or events.
  • Trouble finding the right words to express themselves.
  • Trouble understanding spoken language, reading, and writing.
  • Placing words in the wrong order, making up words, or using wrong words.
  • Mixing up word sounds while speaking.

What Are The Symptoms Of Apraxia Of Speech?

The symptoms of Apraxia of Speech may vary depending upon the severity of the disorder. One individual may make only a few mistakes during an entire conversation, while another may not be able to pronounce a single word correctly at one go.

The main symptoms include –

  • Individuals with CAS or AOS have difficulty finding the right sounds. The word sound may be distorted.
  • Making inconsistent errors in speech. Someone with AOS or CAS may say one word correctly but may have trouble repeating the same word in the next sentence.
  • People with CAS or AOS often seem to be groping for the right sound. They may say the same word multiple times to say it correctly.
  • Errors in tone, rhythm, and stress are common signifiers of AOS and CAS.
  • Some children with CAS may have difficulty with reading, writing, and spelling as well!

Aphasia vs. Apraxia: Treatment

What Is The Treatment For Aphasia?

Following brain injury or stroke, the brain undergoes tremendous change. Due to the high plasticity of the brain, sometimes people who don't receive any targeted treatment for aphasia begin to see improvements in speech in the first few months following the event.

According to the NHS, preferable treatment for aphasia should include speech and language therapy. You should speak to a licensed and experienced speech-language pathologist (SLP) in your area for routine speech therapy.

Following a stroke, TBI, or recovery from a brain tumor, you should receive support from the medical team at the hospital. If you didn't receive treatment at a hospital, you can also speak to your GP for a referral to an SLP.

In the cases of severe aphasia, where the person has lost almost all abilities to communicate, the SLP may teach them new and alternative ways of communication (AAC) using picture boards, gestures, computers, or smartphones.

What Is The Treatment For Apraxia Of Speech?

Children with Apraxia of Speech (CAS) do not outgrow it! They require intense speech therapy sessions from SLPs who are well-versed with the CAS treatment.

Your child may benefit from one-on-one speech therapy sessions. These sessions may be as frequent as 5 times a week for 6 weeks before you see any improvement.

Adults with Apraxia of Speech may also require consistent therapy from weeks to years to improve their speech.

In severe cases, children with CAS will benefit from learning AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication).

Some children and adults will require more practice and time than others to show improvement.

Aphasia vs. Apraxia: Is It Curable?

Is Aphasia Curable?

The prognosis of aphasia depends on the cause of the disorder. If the cause is a cerebrovascular episode, then the patient may recover after receiving sufficient care, treatment, and rehabilitation therapy after the stroke.

In the cases of traumatic brain injuries or tumors, speech therapy following surgical interventions may improve the prognosis.

A milder form of the disorder and younger age of the patient contribute to better aphasia therapy outcomes.

Can Apraxia Of Speech Be Cured?

The exact outcome of the treatment for childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is difficult to predict. Severity, overall health conditions, cognitive skills, and other co-occurring conditions/disorders will determine the outcome in CAS treatment.

In the cases of acquired Apraxia of Speech (AoS), the etiology will determine the recovery period and extent. In cases of stroke or head trauma, treatment of the underlying cause may improve the individual's speech to a certain extent. However, adults with acquired Apraxia of Speech or verbal dyspraxia typically require extended periods of speech therapy for recovery.

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