CAS, or childhood apraxia of speech, may also be known as verbal apraxia. This speech disorder is not fully understood, however, it causes the patient to be unable to fully perform the movements required to create speech. While it may be called by a variety of names, the important connection is the child has difficulty planning and following through with the actions required to speak.
A school speech therapist or speech pathologist may be called in to consult with the child and school to develop an Individual Education Plan, or IEP, to address the speech disorder.
The signs for a very young child are different than those for an older child. However, the signs a school employed speech pathologist should look for in a school age child include:
- Inconsistent errors in creating a sound that are not due to the child’s age.
- The child understands language far better than he or she can speak.
- The child has difficulty repeating words, but words that are repeated are clearer than those created spontaneously.
- Child may visibly struggle when trying to form sounds or words.
- The child may have more difficulty with longer phrases or words than with those that are shorter.
- Speech may be more difficult when the child is anxious or upset.
- The child may be difficult to understand for anyone not familiar with his or her speech patterns.
- Words may be delivered in a monotonous or choppy rhythm and the wrong syllables may be stressed on individual words.
Treatment for children with apraxia of speech is much more intense than other forms of speech therapy. Typically, a school speech pathologist will see a student once a week. Children with apraxia of speech need more frequent sessions, usually a minimum of three sessions per week. At first, the child will require individual sessions, and as improvement begins, he or she may be able to receive fewer sessions per week or be placed in group therapy for some sessions.
In treatment, the focus is on improving the child’s ability to plan and sequence sounds as well as their ability to control the muscles needed for the production of speech. Specific exercises to strengthen these muscles are not necessary as the disorder is a result of a lack of coordination not strength. Multi-sensory feedback may be utilized to help children receive the feedback they need when attempting speech. For severe cases, the child may need to be taught sign language in order to more effectively communicate until speech improves.
Finally, family involvement will be critical to the success of the student. They will need to be given specific instructions on how to help the child practice at home.
How do you get the family involved with the treatment plan?