childhood apraxia of speechChildhood apraxia of speech (CAS), also known as developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD), is a rather ambiguous and unique disorder. It is a neurological condition that is poorly understood. In CAS, your child will be unable to move his/her tongue or mouth to speak, in spite of wanting to talk. Usually, children with this disorder don’t start talking until they are two years old.

A motor speech disorder, CAS means that the brain is unable to send correct messages to the mouth muscles, hence the speech is very incoherent. Although most young kids are not perfectly clear while speaking, in the case of children with CAS, lack of clarity is much more prominent. There are no known causes as to why it occurs, but some probable causes have been identified in genetics.

As a parent, it can be very confusing to understand CAS. The best way to go about this would be by educating yourself and your family about what CAS is, how it’s diagnosed, and how you can help your child. This is a brief guide that covers certain concerns that you may have as a parent.

How to differentiate between speech delay and CAS

In speech delay, the child’s ability to talk and his/her cognitive skills will match. For instance, if the child is a late talker, then his/her cognitive skills will also develop at a slower rate. However, in the case of CAS, the child will be able to comprehend language at a normal pace, but when it comes to talking or expressing himself/herself, it’ll be a huge struggle.

However, this one major difference between speech delay and CAS is not the main criterion for identifying CAS, as certain other language disorders have similar symptoms.

Diagnosis of CAS

If you suspect that your child may be suffering from CAS, the most logical thing to do is to consult a speech language pathologist (SLP). An SLP will be able to accurately assess, evaluate, and diagnose CAS. The evaluation process will involve the SLP noting the developmental history of your child and any other problems or medical issues experienced.

Next, the SLP will ask your child to talk and repeat a few words to see how he/she is communicating. The SLP will observe and note everything. If it appears your child has CAS, the SLP will conduct a motor speech exam. This exam involves repeating challenging and difficult words, phrases, and syllables.

Most likely age of diagnosis

Most children will be diagnosed only after the age of two. This is because if the child is younger, he/she is not in a position to really understand and cooperate with any of the tests. As such, there is no specific age when the child can be diagnosed. The main thing to note here is that the child needs to be in a position to participate in the examination that the SLP conducts.

Importance of accurate diagnosis

A recent study has shown that CAS is quite rare among children. Hence, there have been cases where a child has been misdiagnosed with CAS when, in reality, the child had other speech problems. It’s vital that you consult a good SLP. Typically, a certain diagnosis can’t be made in the case of very young children. It also makes sense to consult more than one SLP.

Is CAS preventable?

Researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint any cause of CAS. In the future, it is likely that they may discover CAS is caused by multiple conditions and factors. Until the real cause is known, it is difficult to say whether CAS is preventable.

Improving speech capacity

The one thing that remains constant is ensuring that the child undergoes proper speech therapy. This therapy needs to address the severity of CAS in your child. It’s vital that your child has regular therapy sessions for best results. The child also needs to remain as healthy as possible for maximum improvement from these therapy sessions.

Once your child starts speech therapy, you’ll notice that he/she is speaking more clearly and people are able to understand what he/she is saying. This is a good thing because you know all your love, care, and effort has helped you and your child. Childhood apraxia of speech, or developmental verbal dyspraxia, can be battled!