Childhood Apraxia of Speech or CAS is a motor speech disorder that affects the movements of the articulators. A child with CAS has difficulty producing the words even though they know what they want to say.

A kid with childhood apraxia of speech may not be able to move their lips or tongue precisely to produce a sound even though they have no weakness in their lips and tongue muscles.

Sadly, it is not a problem that children can outgrow on their own as they grow older. However, their speech may improve with lots of work and therapy.

Fast Facts about Childhood Apraxia of Speech -

Parents can support their children and contribute to their progress by adhering to a few do's and don'ts. But before we delve into what you should and shouldn't do, here are a few facts every parent should know and remember about childhood apraxia of speech –

  • Childhood apraxia of speech is a rare disorder. It affects only around 1 out of 1,000 children.
  • CAS is a complex motor speech disorder. It is characterized by inconsistency. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for children. Speech therapists and Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) need to customize the treatment plan for each child with apraxia of speech.
  • The diagnosis of CAS should always be done by a speech-language pathologist (SLP).
  • A child’s speech may not improve with traditional speech therapy if they have CAS. They may require treatments based on the principles of motor learning.
  • There is no definite cause of childhood apraxia of speech. Traumatic brain injury, stroke, brain tumor, or a genetic disorder may cause apraxia of speech in children.
  • Children with CAS may need to learn sign language or picture boards to communicate. These are augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) methods that complement traditional speech.

The Do’s for Parents of Children with Apraxia of Speech

Here are a few things you can do as parents that will help your child if they have apraxia of speech.

1. Respond To Their Efforts of Communication

It is important to listen to your child. They may use a combination of different forms of communication such as signs, picture boards, computers, and gestures. Remember to pay attention to their efforts of communication.

Respond to all the forms of communication they use at home. Motivate them to share using AAC methods.

2. Teach Other Forms of Communication to Your Child

A child with apraxia of speech may benefit from communicating via sign language, and picture boards. These augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) methods allow children with CAS to express themselves.

Some parents believe that using AAC hinders their child’s speech development. However, there is no research to corroborate this belief.

On the contrary, children who are able to express their feelings, thoughts, and ideas using AAC enjoy better relationships with their family members and healthier emotional development.

3. Talk To Your Child

Talk to your child whenever you can. It's one of the best things parents can do to help a child with childhood apraxia of speech. You may be working from home right now, so take time between calls and meetings to interact with your child and speak about things that may interest them.

Children with CAS may not be able to respond verbally all the time, but pay attention to the different gestures or signs they are using. Recognize their efforts to communicate and build your narrative based on their responses.

You must talk to them throughout the day and request other members of your family to do the same.

4. Use the Words/Phrases Targeted During Therapy

Your child's speech-language pathologist (SLP) may give you a list of words they are working on each week. You can try to incorporate them in your dialog at home.

Don’t force your child to repeat after you or use the targeted words. You can help them by using the listed words while you talk to them.

You may want to make up bedtime stories that include the targeted words frequently. Or, recite silly rhymes that your child seems to enjoy using the targeted words.

5. Request Your Child to Correct Their Speech Once In A While

Your child's speech-language pathologist (SLP) will tell you which words or phrases you can use during home practice. Remember to not put undue pressure on your child and ask them to repeat or correct only those words or phrases.

You can do this only a couple of times per day. Let them talk freely and praise their efforts throughout the day.

If you have praised your child's efforts ten times already, only then ask your child to repeat or correct their speech only once. Make sure they feel positively about speaking to you.

6. Communicate and Build Trust

Establish an open line of communication with your child irrespective of their age. If they are feeling frustrated, irritated, angry, or hopeless, they should be able to talk to you about it.

Even children will go through difficult emotions when they feel stuck with words or phrases during therapy or at home. You should learn to talk about their feelings and emotions. For example, you can say, "I can see that this word is making you feel angry/frustrated. Let us take a break from it."

You can take up the issue later with their SLP and devise a new way to help them say a particular word or phrase.

The Don'ts for Parents of Children with Apraxia of Speech

There are a few things parents must NEVER do. These are actions that aren’t helpful and even harmful for a child with CAS.

1. Don't Correct Your Child's Speech Frequently

When your child is trying to tell you something, listen to what they are saying rather than how they are saying it.

Yes. Correcting targeted words and phrases is an integral part of home therapy for childhood apraxia of speech. However, remember to provide at least ten positive reinforcements to your child for every correction.

Correcting their speech over and over will compound their frustration. That may make them more reluctant to speak at home.

2. Don’t Ask Too Many Questions

Asking questions repeatedly to your child may overwhelm them. Avoid demanding too many answers from them at all times. Only ask questions when absolutely necessary.

Similarly, don’t request them to repeat words or speak throughout the day. It can quickly become tiring and irritating for a child to repeat the same sets of words at request.

3. Don’t Ask Your Child to Repeat a Word Incorrectly

Repeating a word incorrectly is negative practice. It can be detrimental to your child’s progress.

If your child is saying a word incorrectly, and you cannot help them correct it, talk to the SLP. They can help your child when you cannot.

You can learn how to help your child say a word better from their SLP as well.

For Parents: What Should You Do When You Don’t Know What to do

Whenever you are in doubt about your child's progress, improvement, and speech therapy exercises talk to the SLP about it. Demanding too much from your child in too little time can hamper their self-confidence and increase their frustration.

A child with childhood apraxia of speech will exhibit inconsistencies in saying a word even if they have said it perfectly in the past. It is a part of CAS, and you should not see this as a failure. Instead, you can politely ask them to repeat it and see if they can say it correctly the next time.

Every child with CAS progresses at a different rate. Childhood apraxia of speech demands a lot of patience and practice from the child and their parents. As a parent, you should not lose hope or give up after a couple of weeks of therapy.

Remember the do’s and don'ts to aid your child’s progress during speech therapy for apraxia of speech.