Apraxia of Speech: I want to talk, but my mouth fails me!

Acquired Apraxia of Speech (AOS) is a neurogenic speech disorder where the speech sounds get mixed up, sounds get distorted and speech gets increasingly jumbled up as the words and sentences get longer and longer.

Apraxic Speech might include, but not be limited to any of these following features:
  • a slower rate
  • sound distortions
  • distorted sound replacing the original sounds
  • abnormal melody to the speech
  • visible/audible struggle or groping behavior
  • difficulty getting started with speech
  • islands of good speech
  • in severe cases- mutism ( not be able produce any sound or turn on the voice)
It often co-occur with Aphasia. It has been reported by a few researchers to present itself in isolation in a "pure" form, although that seems to be quite rare. It can be a particularly frustrating disorder to deal with. Often times individuals with AOS knows exactly what they want to say, but can't seem to get their message across.

My client with AOS described it quite simply as : "I want to talk, but my mouth fails me!"

I think I (or my loved one) might have AOS. What should I do?

For one, it is important to build a customized speech therapy treatment program after carefully analyzing the specific nature of the client's apraxia.

While over the years many techniques and approaches have been developed to tackle this disorder, there has been a push in the field of speech language pathology to systematically evaluate specific treatment for AOS that has delivered consistent results across the board.

As a result of this need to find proven therapy approaches, in 2001, The Academy of Neurologic Communication Disorders and Sciences (ANCDS) appointed a writing committee that was given the task of developing evidenced-based treatment guidelines for AOS. Researchers carefully reviewed all the studies that have ever been published regarding this difficult and complex speech disorder to find out:
  • What really works? 
  • What should SLPs know while trying to treat AOS? 
  • And why some techniques/approaches might be better than others?
  • And why research from other bodies of work like Motor Learning might be critical to understanding setting up a good AOS treatment plan?
The ANCDS report highlighted that many factors need to be considered while building an effective treatment plan for AOS. While there are a few selected options in terms of therapy approaches for the management of AOS,  the most researched one is the Sound Production Treatment approach (also known as the articulatory kinematic approach).

A well designed Sound Production Treatment program should include the following:
  • careful selection of the sounds that need to be fixed
  • determining the format of cueing, modelling, practice and providing feedback
  • focusing on sound classes that will yield maximum results in therapy
  • using specific principles of motor learning to help fix the disordered sounds/ speech pattern
  • educating oneself about the importance the practice module structure itself
There are also factors that go into specifically helping clients achieving the two critical components of using corrected speech patterns outside of therapy and retaining those speech behaviours.

In summary, if you are looking for a treatment for AOS, look for one that is:
  • customized 
  • that is based on proven research
  • specifically employs techniques for learnt speech to be generalized ( used outside of the therapy session) and
  • focuses on the newly learnt speech to be maintained (used on a regular basis in spontaneous speech).
Want to learn more about customizing treatment for Apraxia of Speech ? Contact us 

Read a related article on Apraxia of Speech