Childhood Apraxia of Speech: What every parent must know?

Speech Therapy
Childhood Apraxia of Speech: What every parent must know?

Understanding Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)

In order for speech to occur, messages need to go from our brain to our mouth. These messages tell the muscles how and when to move to make sounds. When a child has apraxia of speech, the messages do not get through correctly. The child might not be able to move their lips or tongue in the right ways, even though their muscles are not weak. Sometimes, the child might not be able to say much at all. The problem is not about how the brain can think; rather, how the brain instructs the muscles of the mouth to move.

Causes of CAS

Damage to the brain due to syndromic conditions or traumatic brain injury are the common causes of CAS; however, most of the time the cause is unknown. CAS can co-occur with Autism, Down syndrome, dyslexia or other language disorders.

Core Characteristics of Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)

  1. Inconsistent errors in speech sounds
  2. Difficulty in transitioning from one sound to the other
  3. Inappropriate stress patterns in words, phrases and sentences.

Adapted from - American Speech and Hearing Association guidelines (2007)

Who can treat CAS?

Differential diagnosis is crucial to rule out articulation errors, phonological delay or disorder, dysarthria, intellectual disabilities, cluttering, and selective mutism before starting with intervention.

The only professional who qualifies to treat CAS is a speech language pathologist (SLP), who can differentially diagnose, establish baseline and set the right goals. Although, there are many who claim, they treat speech and language disorders or CAS, only a speech pathologist is trained for six years, to provide intervention for communication disorders.

Helpful strategies for parents

  1. CAS is a speech sound disorder, where the child has difficulty in motor planning and executing the word by combining sounds. Therefore, working on single sounds alone may not help for too long; rather, helping your child combine sounds at the earliest is recommended.
  2. Using larger muscle groups to cue, can enable your child to grasp the sounds much faster.
  3. Tactile-kinesthetic and tactile-proprioceptive prompts can help in placement of articulators and better speech sound production.
  4. Lastly, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and PRACTICE to help improve muscle memory.

Follow these strategies under the guidance of a speech pathologist for best outcomes.



Chitra Thadathil (MSc, Sp& Hg)


References and further reading


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