Apraxia is a condition that affects certain complex motor movements, due to damage in some part of the brain or the central nervous system. A person is unable to perform any activity because the brain fails to send instructions to that part of the body. Speech apraxia, which is also known as verbal apraxia or dyspraxia, is one such disability, where the part of the brain that helps in the functioning of speech and language, gets damaged.
It could be developmental or acquired. While the former affects children, the latter is mostly observed in adults. Adults affected by dyspraxia are unable to produce the right words and sounds. They might be able to use a difficult word correctly, but might have trouble repeating it. Thus, they are not able to speak in a consistent manner.
Dyspraxia develops in adults when a person is affected by conditions such as tumor, paralysis, head injury, heart attack, etc., or has been in an accident that has caused damage to the brain.
- People affected by this disorder may not be able to find the correct words to express themselves. They would surely know the word, but may fumble to produce appropriate words or sounds.
- An individual might experience difficulty in saying long and complex sentences and may also speak slowly.
- He/she may say many wrong words before pronouncing the right one. At times, he/she may say a correct word at a given instance but at the next moment fail to utter the same word.
- He/she may not be able to modify intonation patterns while speaking. He/she may speak in a strange accent, and might also have problems in using vowels.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The diagnosis is done by a specialist known as speech-language pathologist. It is not very easy to diagnose whether a person is affected by this condition or not, since there is no specific test to detect it. An MRI test can be done to understand the severity of brain damage and to rule out other communication disorders that may have affected the brain. The pathologist may conduct several tests to examine the person's competence in speaking, reading, writing, and performing non-verbal movements.
There is no specific treatment for this disorder. It is believed that people with a slight disability can be cured completely without any treatment. For people with a medium to severe problem, there are a number of therapies that could help them redevelop their speaking abilities. Every individual is different and likewise the treatment would also be.
There may be therapy sessions with the pathologist, where the patient would be asked to constantly repeat words and sounds, starting with simple ones, and subsequently moving towards complex ones. People who have severe dyspraxia are taught to use alternative ways of communication such as the use of sign language, book with pictures and words, and sometimes advanced electronic gadgets, like a portable computer which pronounces what is typed on it.
Speech apraxia is a disorder that can be cured with proper attention and treatment. When a person in the family develops it, family members might experience difficulty in understanding what the person is trying to say. However, every member of the family should be patient and try to understand the person's condition. Timely treatment coupled with the love and support of family members will surely speed up the recovery of the individual.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.