Dyspraxia? Apraxia? What does that mean?
Some children take a lot longer than others to develop the ability to say words.
This can be for many reasons, but one can be that they are delayed in being able to organise the necessary movements for speaking. This is known as Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia or Childhood Apraxia of Speech.
Let's take those terms apart.
'Developmental' or 'Childhood' refers to the fact that the child has not yet developed the skill. This is different to a person who has had a head injury or a stroke, losing this ability.
'Verbal' means the same as 'speech', and refers to the movements needed to produce speech sounds.
'Dys' means 'difficulty with' something. 'A' means 'absence of' something.
'Praxis' in this context means 'clever human movement' and 'putting a plan into action'.
So, 'Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia' really just means that a child is having difficulty developing the clever human movements required to speak.
These children frequently have no other issues at all, and understand what is said to them quite well. Often it is the significant gap between what they comprehend and what they can say that signals the difficulty.
Sometimes they will develop their own gestures, but they will usually be quite hard to understand or even not speak till quite late. In rare instances, the child may not develop adequate speech at all.
One feature of dyspraxia is that it only affects the voluntary control of muscles, so children are fine with reflex actions and are not paralysed. This may result in them spontaneously saying some words, but not being able to repeat it on request just seconds later. (See Blog - "I Think My Child Is Just Lazy")
Dyspraxia is a frustrating disorder, usually 'caused' by a genetic trait. It may also affect the whole body.
It may also be a co-existing disorder with other developmental issues such as Autism and Downs Syndrome.
Parents are NOT to blame for this disorder, but can help their child best by obtaining good advice as soon as they think a difficulty may exist. Knowing what is happening and how to foster first speech sounds in your child, is a great start.
Families can take comfort knowing that many quite brilliant people, as well as vast numbers of normal people in the community, have experienced dyspraxia, and lead fulfilling lives.
Speech Pathologists are the profession that can assist with this problem. Parents may want to seek out practitioners with extra training and experience in dyspraxia, as speech pathology is a wide field and knowledge about this condition will be valuable in deciding on appropriate treatment.
A more detailed information package is available to clients, once a diagnosis has been made.