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Learning About Apraxia of Speech

What is apraxia of speech?

People who have apraxia of speech can't speak well. They understand language. They know what they want to say. And the muscles of the mouth and throat are strong enough to help them speak. But the brain isn't able to plan the order and timing needed for the muscles to move together to create speech that others can understand.

What causes it?

Apraxia of speech can be caused by several things. These include a stroke, an injury to the head, a brain tumour, or a disease of the nervous system. Sometimes it's caused by a condition that gets worse over time. In that case, the apraxia of speech may get worse too.

What are the symptoms?

If you have apraxia of speech, you may:

  • Speak slowly.
  • Often pause or struggle to say something.
  • Be able to say only a few words clearly.
  • Be able to make single sounds, but not be able to put them together into longer words or phrases.
  • Sometimes say the wrong sound in a word, leave out some sounds, or make sounds in the wrong order.
  • Be able to say a word or phrase in some situations, but not in others.

How is it diagnosed?

If it looks like you have a problem like apraxia of speech, your doctor will do a physical examination. He or she will also ask questions about your past health. Your doctor may refer you to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or you can contact an SLP yourself.

Your doctor or SLP may suggest other tests. These tests are used to find out if you've had a stroke, a brain tumour, an injury to your brain, or a disease of your nervous system. Your doctor may use an MRI or other imaging test. This can help find out what might be going on in your brain that is causing your speech problem.

The SLP will also listen to you talk. He or she will watch how you say sounds and combinations of sounds. The SLP will also listen to how you pause between phrases, how you put stress on parts of words, and how loudly you speak.

How is it treated?

There are things your doctor or speech-language pathologist can do to help improve apraxia of speech. He or she may give you:

  • Methods to help make your speech clearer.
  • Strategies to help you communicate better.
  • A computer or other device, if needed, to help you communicate.

You may need frequent speech therapy sessions. Your health care team will help you decide on the best schedule for treatment.

How can others help you cope?

Your family and friends can help you communicate better. Share these simple tips with them. Encourage them to:

  • Be patient, understanding, and supportive.
  • Speak directly to you and give you enough time to talk.
  • Limit conversations to small groups or one-on-one talks. It's best to talk in quiet places without distractions like radio or TV.
  • Not correct your pronunciation.
  • Ask you to repeat something if they don't understand.
  • Now and then, repeat back what you said. This helps confirm that they understand the message.

What are some tips for coping?

Speech disorders can make it frustrating to talk with others. But there are some things you can do to make it easier.

  • Give yourself time to get the words out. Be patient with yourself.
  • Try to slow down how fast you speak.
  • Be patient with others. If they have trouble understanding you, try again.
  • Use other methods to help listeners understand you. For example, you can use an alphabet board. Point to the first letter of each word as you say it. Or you can try adding gestures or drawing. You might also use special apps on devices such as smartphones or tablets.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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