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Apraxia: Symptoms, causes, tests, treatments

What is apraxia?

Apraxia is a motor disorder affecting a child's ability to move muscles in certain sequences.

People with orofacial apraxia are unable to voluntarily perform certain movements involving facial muscles. For instance, they may not be able to lick their lips or wink. Another form of apraxia affects a person’s ability to intentionally move arms and legs.

With apraxia of speech a person finds it difficult or impossible to move his or her mouth and tongue to speak. This happens, even though the person has the desire to speak and the mouth and tongue muscles are physically able to form words.

Are there different types of apraxia of speech?

There are two forms of apraxia of speech, acquired apraxia and developmental apraxia. Acquired apraxia can occur in people of all ages. Typically, though, it is found in adults. This condition causes people to lose the speech-making abilities they once possessed.

Developmental apraxia of speech is also known as childhood apraxia of speech. This condition is present from birth, and it affects a child’s ability to form sounds and words. Children with speech apraxia often have far greater abilities to understand speech than to express themselves with spoken words.

The majority of children with developmental apraxia will experience significant improvement, if not complete recovery, with the correct treatment.

What is the difference between apraxia of speech and aphasia?

Apraxia is sometimes confused with aphasia, another communication disorder. That confusion can be complicated by the fact that the two conditions can occur together.

People with apraxia and aphasia might both have difficulty expressing themselves with words. There are, though, distinct differences between the two. Aphasia describes a problem in a person’s ability to understand or use words in and of themselves. This may make it hard for someone with the condition to speak, read, or write. However, apraxia does not describe a problem with language comprehension. Apraxia refers to the difficulty someone has initiating and performing the movements needed to make speech. This difficulty arises despite the fact that there is no weakness in the necessary muscles.

What are the symptoms of apraxia of speech?

There are a variety of speech-related symptoms that can be associated with apraxia, including:

  • Difficulty stringing syllables together in the appropriate order to make words, or inability to do so
  • Minimal babbling during infancy
  • Difficulty saying long or complex words
  • Repeated attempts at pronunciation of words
  • Speech inconsistencies, such as being able to say a sound or word properly at certain times but not others
  • Incorrect inflections or stresses on certain sounds or words
  • Excessive use of nonverbal forms of communication
  • Distorting of vowel sounds
  • Omitting consonants at the beginnings and ends of words
  • Seeming to grope or struggle to make words

Childhood apraxia of speech rarely occurs alone. It is often accompanied by other language or cognitive deficits, which may cause:

  • Limited vocabulary
  • Grammatical problems
  • Problems with coordination and fine motor skills
  • Difficulties chewing and swallowing
  • Clumsiness

WebMD Medical Reference

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