Apraxia of Speech (Speech Disorder)

Apraxia of speech (AOS) is a motor speech disorder. Learn more about AOS causes, diagnosis and treatment.

What Is Apraxia of Speech (AOS)?

Apraxia of speech (AOS) is a motor speech disorder, characterised by impaired planning or programming of speech movements, as a result of damage in the brain. A person with AOS frequently has difficulty sequencing sounds in words or sentences. 

Common Causes of Apraxia of Speech

AOS happens when there is damage to one or some parts of the brain which control motor speech planning or programming. A common cause of AOS is stroke. Other causes include:
Brain tumour
Head injury
Degenerative neurological diseases

Apraxia of Speech: Signs and Symptoms

A person with AOS may exhibit one or more of the following features during speech production:
Inaccurate articulation, with inconsistent consonant or vowel distortions
Difficulty in imitating speech sounds
Effortful trial-and-error groping during speech production
Slow rate of speech, especially on longer words
Somewhat preserved ability to produce "automatic speech" such as counting, reciting previously memorised pieces, responding to social routines — “Hello”, “How are you?”, “Thank you”

A person with AOS may not usually exhibit any problems with eating and swallowing.

Diagnosis of Apraxia of Speech

Your doctor may refer you to a speech therapist for further detailed assessment when signs of speech problems are observed. The speech therapist will determine the nature and severity of any speech difficulties. She may ask the person to carry out volitional or spontaneous speech tasks, such as counting, saying words and non-speech tasks, such as, blowing, tongue rotation movement.

Apraxia of Speech: Risk Factors

Stroke is a major risk factor of AOS. Some risk factors of stroke include:
High blood pressure
Diabetes mellitus
Cigarette smoking
Heart diseases
Previous stroke disease or transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

Treatment of Apraxia of Speech

Treatment depends on the cause, type, and severity of the symptoms. The speech therapist may use various therapy methods especially tailored for the person with AOS, which focuses on his strengths and weaknesses.

Possible goals of treatment may include:
Improving clarity of speech with speech drills based on modelling
Using a sing-song method to reduce groping during speech production
Increasing rate of speech
Teaching caregivers and family members strategies to facilitate communication with the person with apraxia of speech 

In severe cases, alternative communication methods such as simple gestures, alphabet boards, or electronic or computer-based equipment may be taught to the affected person and/or his caregivers and family members.

Apraxia of Speech: How to Help Yourself 

As stroke is one of the main risk factors for developing AOS, taking steps to prevent a stroke will in turn help reduce the risk of developing AOS.

If you are diagnosed with AOS, it is important to do exercises or carry out the strategies that are given by your speech therapist regularly in order to see improvement in speech production. 

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