Apraxia and Cerebral Palsy: How Are They Linked?

Birth Injury, Cerebral Palsy Information, Patient Care

Child with cerebral palsy moving lips and tongue

From balance and posture to speech and vision, cerebral palsy can affect a wide range of your child’s abilities and symptoms. Some children who develop cerebral palsy also have related complications and disorders, such as apraxia of speech. Discover how apraxia and cerebral palsy may be linked, and learn more about diagnosis and treatment for these disorders.

What Is Apraxia of Speech?

Apraxia is a type of speech disorder that often affects children. Individuals with apraxia have trouble speaking clearly, and they may experience difficulty trying to make certain sounds. That’s because apraxia is a neurological condition that affects how the brain plans and executes movements related to speaking.

Individuals can develop one of two types of apraxia:

  • Verbal Apraxia: This type affects the muscles that control the sounds of speech. Individuals with verbal apraxia often have trouble pronouncing words correctly.
  • Oral Apraxia: This type affects a more wide-ranging group of muscles in the mouth. Individuals with oral apraxia may experience difficulty moving their tongue or cheeks effectively.

The severity of apraxia may fall almost anywhere on a wide spectrum. Some individuals may have serious cases, which may prevent them from oral communication altogether. Others may have mild cases that limit the types of sounds they can make or the number of syllables they can pronounce.

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of Apraxia?

Individuals with apraxia can develop this condition in one of two ways. The potential causes of apraxia include:

  • Childhood Apraxia: Patients with childhood apraxia have the condition from birth. This type of apraxia is more common in boys than in girls, and children who have a relative with a learning disability or a speech disorder may be more likely to develop this condition. However, doctors don’t have an advanced understanding of the causes of childhood apraxia.
  • Acquired Apraxia: Individuals can develop acquired apraxia as children or as adults, but it’s more common in the latter group. Damage to areas of the brain that control speaking may cause acquired apraxia and reduced ability to speak. Brain tumors, strokes, head injuries, impacts, and other illnesses and injuries may cause the damage that leads to acquired apraxia.

Apraxia may also be an aspect of a larger combination of disorders. For example, cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy and other complex disorders may be risk factors for apraxia.

What Are the Symptoms of Apraxia?

Apraxia has a long list of symptoms. Patients may show various combinations of these common apraxia symptoms:

  • Unpredictable mistakes when repeating sounds
  • Says shorter words more easily than longer words
  • Problems making sounds or pronouncing syllables in the appropriate order
  • Issues speaking with the right tone or rhythm
  • Lengthy pauses while speaking
  • Difficulties chewing and swallowing
  • Complications with processing sensory stimuli
  • Other fine motor delays or related disabilities

How Is Apraxia Diagnosed?

Just because your child has one of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean apraxia is the cause. For example, it’s easy to confuse apraxia and delayed speech, but these two conditions aren’t the same. A child with a developmental delay of speech generally follows a standard learning path that simply moves more slowly.

If you suspect apraxia, it’s essential to talk with a healthcare provider who can evaluate and diagnose your child effectively. In many cases, speech-language pathologists can diagnose apraxia, as these professionals have extensive experience identifying and treating a variety of speech disorders.

There isn’t a simple test for diagnosing apraxia. Instead, a speech-language pathologist may need to meet with and observe your child over an extended period of time before making a diagnosis. During an evaluation, this professional may listen to and analyze your child’s speech and confirm how clearly others can understand your child’s speech.

How Is Apraxia Treated?

If your child has apraxia, a speech-language pathologist generally handles treatment. At first, a typical apraxia treatment plan may include several therapy sessions each week. As your child’s speech improves, less frequent sessions may be more appropriate.

In many cases, apraxia treatment can help your child speak more clearly and make sounds more effectively. With treatment, your child may learn how to plan the right movements and make them at the appropriate times, resulting in clearer speech with a more understandable meaning.

Children with apraxia often have numerous treatment options. However, these treatments can be expensive and challenging for many families to manage. It’s always in your best interest to speak with your doctor or therapist for more information or alternative options.

If you believe your child developed apraxia and cerebral palsy due to medical malpractice, you may have legal recourse. For over four decades, the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs have helped over 30,000 clients uncover their legal rights and options. Contact our team today to learn more about your legal rights and how we can help you seek the justice you deserve.

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?