Childhood Apraxia of Speech: Parent Tips and Tricks
Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder characterized by difficulty planning and sequencing movement of the lips, tongue, jaw, and palate to produce accurate speech sounds. This complex motor planning disorder can greatly impact a child’s speech intelligibility, leading to frequent speech errors and communication breakdowns. As a parent of a child with CAS, you play a vital role in helping your child obtain treatment and creating a home environment that promotes positive interactions with communication.
What You Should Know About CAS:
Childhood apraxia of speech cannot be “outgrown;” it is vital that your child obtains evidence-based speech therapy.
Research suggests that effective therapy for CAS should involve repetitive practice with sounds and movement patterns of speech, but there is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach for treatment. CAS is a complex disorder characterized by inconsistency, so different approaches work for different children.
It is important your child has positive and successful experiences with communication. For some children, this means they will need to learn to use another mode of communication — such as a speech-generating device (sometimes called a “talker”) or American Sign Language — while they continue to work on improving verbal speech.
In order to improve motor planning, your child will need to practice speech often. It is essential that all of your child’s caregivers, therapists, and teachers are involved in the treatment process.
What You Can Do:
Provide a supportive environment. It can be heartbreaking to witness your child getting frustrated over his communication breakdowns. Try to support him as much as you can. You can validate his feelings (“I see that you want to tell me something and it is SO frustrating that I don’t understand”) and reassure him that you will figure it out together. Try to not let him see that you are frustrated over his communication challenges.
Do your research. Talk to your child’s speech-language pathologist (SLP) to learn about childhood apraxia of speech. It is a complex diagnosis and the information on the internet can be overwhelming. Your child’s SLP will be happy to discuss what treatment methods are working for your child and the therapist will probably even learn a few things from you, too.
Use music. Practicing speech by singing songs is a great way for your child to practice repetitive motor sequences. Additionally, singing his favorite songs can be fun and motivating, and he can do it with his peers and siblings.
Give your child visual feedback. If you are having your child imitate a word you produce, make sure he is looking at your mouth. It may also help to have him look in a mirror as he produces the word.
Get some support. Experiencing frequent communication difficulties with your child can be frustrating for both of you. Seek out a support system for yourself. Some great options include in-person support groups and online communities for parents of children with CAS.
Ultimately, though childhood apraxia of speech can be complex and overwhelming, you play a significant role in helping your child improve his ability to communicate. Your most valuable resource should be your child’s speech-language pathologist. Your child’s therapist can provide you with information regarding your child’s specific areas of need and what treatment approach has had the most success. Your SLP may also provide you with home practice and resources, such as support groups and books to learn more about what you can do to help.