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Information about Acquired Speech Dyspraxia

Speech and Language Therapy (SaLT)

Dyspraxia of speech is also known as verbal dyspraxia or apraxia.

It is a speech disorder in which a person has trouble pronouncing words correctly and consistently, e.g. one day a person may be able to say “television” easily but another day may struggle and not be able to say it at all. The difficulty is not due to weakness or paralysis of the speech muscles (the muscles of the face, tongue, and lips). The severity of speech dyspraxia can range from mild to severe.

What are the types of dyspraxia?

There are two main types of speech dyspraxia:

  1. Acquired dyspraxia of speech
  2. Developmental dyspraxia of speech, which occurs mainly in children and is often present from birth.

What are the causes of acquired dyspraxia?

Acquired dyspraxia of speech can affect a person at any age, although it most typically occurs in adults. It is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that are involved in speaking, and involves the loss or impairment of existing speech abilities. The disorder may result from a stroke, head injury, tumour, or other illness affecting the brain.

Acquired dyspraxia of speech may occur on its own or together with other difficulties, e.g. muscle weakness affecting speech production (this is known as dysarthria) or language difficulties (this is known as dysphasia).

What are the symptoms?

People with dyspraxia of speech may have a number of the following difficulties:

  • Difficulty putting sounds and syllables together in the correct order to form words. Often longer or more complex words are harder to say than shorter or simpler words
  • Making inconsistent mistakes when speaking. For example, a person may say a difficult word correctly but then have trouble repeating it, or they may be able to say a particular sound one day and have trouble with the same sound the next day
  • Grasping for the right sound or word, and a person may try saying a word several times before they say it correctly
  • Difficulty using “prosody” correctly — that is, the varying rhythms, stresses, and inflections of speech that are used to help express meaning are disrupted and a person’s speech may sound monotone
  • The severity of acquired dyspraxia of speech will depend on the type, extent and location of the injury to the brain and so will vary from person to person.

Dyspraxia can be so mild that a person has trouble with very few speech sounds or only has occasional problems pronouncing words with many syllables. In the most severe cases, a person may not be able to communicate effectively with speech, and may need the help of alternative or additional communication methods.

How is it diagnosed?

There is no single factor or test that can be used to diagnose dyspraxia. The person making the diagnosis, often a Speech and Language Therapist generally looks for the presence of some, or many, of a group of symptoms, including those difficulties described above. Ruling out other contributing factors, such as muscle weakness or language-comprehension problems, can also help with the diagnosis.

How is it treated?

In some cases, people with acquired dyspraxia of speech recover some or all of their speech abilities on their own. This is called spontaneous recovery.

Speech and language therapy is often helpful for people with acquired dyspraxia who do not spontaneously recover all of their speech abilities.

Speech and Language Therapists use different approaches to treat dyspraxia of speech, and no single approach has been proven to be the most effective. Therapy is tailored to the individual and is designed to treat other speech or language problems that may occur together with dyspraxia. Each person responds differently to therapy, and some people will make more progress than others. Support and encouragement from family members and friends are also important.

What general strategies can help speech?

  • Save energy by speaking face to face with people. Don’t try to speak from room to room and don’t try to compete with other noises such as the TV or radio. Find somewhere quiet to talk
  • Make sure you have someone’s full attention before starting to tell them important information and be prepared to repeat messages
  • Make the most of your best times of day to speak to people
  • Pace yourself by planning frequent rest times; talking when you are tired will be additionally hard
  • It can be useful to put the emphasis on communicating the message rather than the accuracy of the speech sounds
  • Tell people that you have a difficulties with speaking
  • Don’t hide your communication problems. If people are aware of your difficulties, they will be more understanding and you will not be so anxious about trying to conceal them
  • Try to remain calm.

In severe cases, people with acquired dyspraxia of speech may need to use other ways to express themselves in addition to speech. These might include formal or informal sign language; a language notebook with pictures or written words that the person can show to other people to support their speech.

Where can I find more information?

Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists
2 White Hart Yard, London, SE1 1NX
Tel: 020 7378 1200

Website: www.rcslt.org

Speech Disorders web site: www.speechdisorder.co.uk