Apraxia of Speech in Adults

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Apraxia is a motor speech disorder that makes it hard to speak. This disorder can make saying the right sounds and words very difficult. Speech-language pathologists can help.

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About Apraxia of Speech

To speak, messages must go from your brain to your mouth. These messages tell the muscles how and when to move to make sounds. When you have apraxia of speech, the messages do not get through correctly due to brain damage. You might not be able to move your lips or tongue the right way to say sounds. Sometimes, you might not be able to speak at all.

Apraxia of speech is sometimes called acquired apraxia of speech, verbal apraxia, or dyspraxia. It is a motor speech disorder. You can also have apraxia in other parts of your body, like in your arms or legs. This is called limb apraxia.

How serious your apraxia is depends on what type of brain damage you have. Apraxia can happen at the same time as other speech or language problems. You may have muscle weakness in your mouth. This is called dysarthria. You could also have trouble understanding what others say or telling others what you are thinking. This is called aphasia.

Children can also have apraxia. If you have concerns about your child’s speech, please see the Practice Portal’s Childhood Apraxia of Speech page.

Signs of Apraxia of Speech

If you have apraxia of speech, you will have problems saying sounds correctly. This may cause you to say something very different than what you meant. You may even make up words. For example, you may say "chicken" instead of "kitchen." Or, you may say something that might not make sense, like "bipem," even though you wanted to say “kitchen.” You may know that what you say is wrong and try to fix it. Sometimes you will get it right, but sometimes you will still say something else. This can be very frustrating.

If you have apraxia, you may experience these symptoms:

  • Have trouble imitating and saying sounds on your own. You may add new sounds, leave sounds out, or say sounds the wrong way.
  • Be able to say something the right way one time but the wrong way the next time.
  • Move your tongue and lips to get them into the right place as you try to say sounds. This is called groping.
  • Speak more slowly.
  • Be able to say things that you say all the time—like "Hello" or "How are you?"—without much trouble. This is called automatic speech.
  • Not be able to say any sounds at all. This may happen in severe cases.

Causes of Apraxia of Speech

Damage to the parts of the brain that control how your muscles move causes apraxia of speech. Any type of brain damage can cause apraxia. This includes stroke, traumatic brain injurydementia, brain tumors, and brain diseases that get worse over time.

Testing for Apraxia of Speech

If you have trouble speaking, you should see a doctor right away. It is important to find out why and make sure it does not get worse. A speech-language pathologist can test your speech and language. This will help the speech-language pathologist decide whether you have apraxia or some other problem. The speech-language pathologist will look at how well you can move your mouth, lips, and tongue. They will listen to how your speech sounds in single words, sentences, and conversation. A speech-language pathologist tests how you understand what others say and how you use words to tell others about your thoughts.

Treatment for Apraxia of Speech

Speech-language pathologists can work with you to improve how you say sounds and put sounds into words. Treatment will focus on getting your muscles to move correctly. You may need to teach your muscles to make sounds again. Saying sounds over and over and using the correct mouth movements can help. You may need to slow down your speech or talk to a steady beat so that you can say the sounds you need to say. In bad cases, you may need to find other ways to answer questions or tell people what you want. These may include simple hand gestures, writing, pointing to letters or pictures, or using a computer. This is called augmentative and alternative communication.

It is important to get help if you have apraxia of speech. Talk to your doctor about seeing a speech-language pathologist, or look for a speech-language pathologist in your area by visiting ProFind.

See ASHA’s information for professionals on the Practice Portal's Acquired Apraxia of Speech page.

Other Resources

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