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Speech apraxia

Definition

Speech apraxia is a dysfunction in the planning of speech movement. The speech production is therefore either impaired or completely restricted. Although all physical requirements are present, the patient can only produce limited amounts or no speech at all. However the understanding of speech is not impaired. Mostly speech apraxia is connected to another disorder, like aphasia or dysarthria, and occurs after a stroke.

Causes

Speech apraxia can be the result of a stroke, a traumatic brain injury, a brain tumor or it is caused after a neurologic surgical intervention. Because of a damage caused to the brain the motor skills necessary for proper speech production are severely impaired. Although the mere organs necessary for speaking (lips, tongue, jaw) are not damaged as in the case of a paralysis, they still cannot be controlled for movement and thus speech.

Symptoms

Speech apraxia is usually identifiable when the patient shows strong searching motions when trying to speak. The speech can be impaired in different ways, i.e. words are distorted, vowels are distorted or interchanged. Prosody and speech rhythm can also be affected. In many cases the corruption production of single words is a most strenuous undertaking for the patient, in severe cases whole sentences are either impossible to form or very hard to understand. Depending on the degree of severity, the word transformation can occur close to the “aimed for” word or can completely deviate from it. Frequently it is the beginning of the word, that causes the most difficulty. Sometimes it is also the production of single vowels that is not possible or rather difficult.

Therapy

Speech apraxia requires the same initial diagnostic testing performed with standardized testing material. Depending on the kind and severity of the disorder a therapy plan is drawn up and the therapist will reinforce appropriate exercises which ought to support the patient in establishing and securing an improved way in everyday communication.

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