Childhood Apraxia of Speech is sometimes also known as apraxia or dyspraxia of speech. CAS is a speech disorder where the brain has difficulty coordinating the mouth movements needed for speech (using the tongue, lips, jaw). The coordination difficulty means that a child with CAS struggles to sequence and say speech sounds, syllables, and words when they talk. Children with CAS are often are very difficult to understand. CAS is not caused by muscle weakness, rather it is a problem from the brain giving the correct plans and directions to the mouth to co-ordinate for speech. It’s a little like a computer chip in the car that has an error…the parts of the car are in working order, but the computer is not communicating with the parts to allow their movement in sync.
A child with CAS develops speech differently than a typical child. Their speech doesn’t just sound younger than their actual age (as in a delay), rather they have a disorder that will not ‘catch up’ by itself. Therapy for CAS looks at improving the planning, sequencing, and coordination of muscle movements for speech production. Exercises to “strengthen” the oral muscles will not help with speech because CAS is a disorder of speech coordination, not muscle weakness. Sometimes therapy will include finding different ways to support communication while speech is very difficult e.g. signing, core boards, assistive technology.
Here are a few helpful websites that talk about CAS in detail:
CAS is rare and progress can be excruciatingly slow. If you are at all worried about your child’s speech, I recommend seeking assessment and support from a Speech-Language Therapist as soon as possible. If you’re in or around Hamilton, New Zealand, feel free to get in touch with me.