Written by Ho Shuet Lian, Senior Speech-Language Therapist

 

1) What is it like to have Verbal Dyspraxia?

I know what I want to say but I am not able to move my lips, tongue or jaw in the right ways. My speech muscles are not weak. Just that my brain has difficulty telling my speech muscles to move in the right ways. I want to say “butterfly” but it can come out as “butterby” or “butflyter” or “pubberfy”. I may demonstrate grouping movements with my tongue or lips. Sometimes, I just do not want to say much at all. I tend to make more speech sound errors when the word gets longer such as “condominium”, “mathematical“ and “hydroelectricity”. I feel frustrated when adults keep telling me to try harder. However, automatic phrases like counting 1 to 100, alphabet and “I love you, mummy” are easier to say than new phrases or sentences.

 

2) What is Verbal Dyspraxia?

It is a condition where children have difficulty in making and co-ordinating the precise movements needed to produce clear speech with their mouth and without any evidence of damage to nerves or muscles. It can also be referred to as Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia (DVD), Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) or Developmental Apraxia of Speech. They have difficulty with the speed, accuracy and timing of movement sequences that are required to produce clear speech. Children with verbal dyspraxia do not learn speech sounds in typical order. They will NOT outgrow verbal dyspraxia and will not make progress without treatment. It can take a lot of work, but with regular and often intensive speech therapy, their speech can improve. Oral dyspraxia is a condition where children have difficulty in planning, sequencing and initiating non-speech movements such as sucking, blowing or individual tongue/lip movements. Children with oral dyspraxia may drool excessively, have difficulty in chewing and/or licking an ice cream cone.

 

3) What causes verbal dyspraxia?

The cause is unknown. In some cases, verbal dyspraxia can be a result of a stroke or a traumatic brain injury. It may also occur as a symptom of a genetic disorder, syndrome or metabolic condition. For example, it was found that verbal dyspraxia occurs more frequently in children with galactosemia. Mayo Clinic found that abnormalities in the FOXP2 gene appear to increase the risk of verbal dyspraxia and other speech and language disorders. The FOXP2 gene may be involved in how certain nerves and pathways in the brain develop. Researchers continue to study how abnormalities in the FOXP2 gene may affect motor coordination and speech and language processing in the brain.

 

4) How does verbal dyspraxia impact upon children’s daily functioning?

Although verbal dyspraxia does not impact the children’s intelligence, it can affect their learning ability and can create a significant disruption to their way of life with -Difficulty being understood by others -Difficulty with reading, writing and spelling -Difficulty with expressing their thoughts through speech -Difficulty creating friendships

 

5) Any other symptoms or problems that are often present along with verbal dyspraxia?

- Delayed languages, such as reduced vocabulary, or difficulty putting words together to form a grammatical sentence - Difficulties with gross and fine motor movement skills or coordination -Hypersensitivity, in which the child may not like some textures of certain foods or clothing

 

6) Who should I approach?

a) A speech-language therapist to teach the child to gain control and sequence speech muscles b) An occupational therapist to assist the child in improving his life skills and motor development c) A psychologist to address any social and self-esteem issues

 

7) Any prevention for verbal dyspraxia?

Diagnose and treat verbal dyspraxia as early as possible may reduce the risk of long- term persistence of the problem.

 

References

  • Amanda Kirby (2017). Dyspraxia: Developmental Co-ordination Disorder, Dyspraxia Foundation
  • “Childhood Apraxia of Speech”, The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/Childhood-Apraxia-of-Speech/
  • “Childhood apraxia of speech”, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases- conditions/childhood-apraxia-of-speech/symptoms-causes/syc-20352045
  • “Verbal dyspraxia”, The Royal Children's Hospital Paediatric Speech Pathology Service, 2018, https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Verbal_dyspraxia/
  • Samantha Walker (2015). Waiting for a Voice: The Parent's Guide to Coping with Verbal Dyspraxia, Emerald Publishing
  • “What is Verbal Dyspraxia?” I CAN, https://ican.org.uk/media/1289/verbal-dyspraxia- factsheet-may-2016.pdf “WHAT IS DYSPRAXIA?” Kids First Children’s Services, Posted on March 7, 2016, https://kids-first.com.au/what-is-dyspraxia/