Your child wants to say something and you can see that they’re having difficulty getting the words out. Called apraxia of speech (AOS), there are many ways in which we (and you) can help your child find their voice.
As speech therapists and pathologists who focus on children, the highly skilled team here at Celebrations Speech Group has extensive experience helping children who present with AOS.
In the following, we take a brief look at AOS and, more importantly, how we can help your child better communicate and express themselves through speech.
What we know about apraxia of speech
When you communicate verbally, your brain creates the thought and then initiates a series of movements through certain pathways that allow you to communicate the thought verbally. With AOS, which is a neurological disorder, there’s a malfunction in these pathways and your child isn’t able to communicate with sound effectively.
There are many different degrees of apraxia of speech that range from severe — completely nonverbal — to mild — occasionally mispronouncing words.
We don’t know the exact cause of AOS, but we believe that genetics play an important role. Because we don’t know the cause, we don’t have a single diagnostic tool that can help identify the presence of AOS, which means we rely on symptoms.
How we help your child find their voice
If we diagnose your child with AOS, it’s important to note that this isn’t a condition that they’ll simply outgrow, which means speech therapy will be key.
In most cases, we like to get started as soon as we can, usually around the age of three and older. To start, we work with your child on a one-on-one basis to help them better plan and sequence their words. Through repetitive exercises, our goal is to help improve the speech-sound brain pathways.
For this type of speech issue, we find that one-on-one speech therapy sessions work best and we only introduce group therapy once we’re sure that your child can comfortably navigate their verbal communication.
If your child has severe AOS or AOS related to autism spectrum disorder, we may need to work with your child on alternative means of communications, whether it’s through signing and/or drawing.
Doing your part
While there’s much that we can do here at our practice, your continuing work at home is equally as important when it comes to AOS. To help you best help your child, here are a few tips:
- Continue to practice the exercises we focus on here
- Respond to your child however they communicate
- Continue to talk to your child — comprehension isn’t the issue
- Don’t change your speech patterns — simply speak normally
- Avoid asking your child too many questions to force them to speak
When it comes to correcting their speech, there’s a middle ground that works best. For example, we’ll give you a list of words, phrases, and sentences that we’ve worked on, so you should make corrections if they don’t get them right.
Correction outside of what we practice can be tricky. We don’t want your child to get used to saying something incorrectly, but nor do we want you to overwhelm them with negativity. Whenever you can, make gentle corrections, but focus more on positive reinforcement when they get things right.
With our work here at our practice and your continuing efforts at home, we’re confident that we can improve your child’s ability to communicate. It might also be helpful if you research AOS on your own and there are some great resources, starting with Apraxia Kids.
If you have more questions about how we can address your child's apraxia of speech, please contact one of our locations in Brentwood, Stockton, or Elk Grove, California.