Speech Apraxia in Toddlers – Is it Common and How to Treat it

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Written by Editorial Team

Editorial Team

Speech apraxia in toddlers

Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is a speech disorder that affects a toddler’s ability to make precise motions while speaking. This condition affects a very small percentage of toddlers. Speech apraxia in toddlers makes it difficult for them to plan speech movements. The inability of the brain to properly guide or coordinate the motions of the muscles involved in speech, results in abnormal performance. The ability to arrange the movements of the lips, mouth, and tongue that lead to regular speed and rhythm in speaking is a skill your toddler’s brain cannot seem to work out.

Speech apraxia in toddlers is characterized as a motor speech condition. The child’s brain is malfunctioning in a way that prevents the proper transmission of speech-producing motor commands. Most instances have no clear root cause. Toddlers with CAS won’t get better until they get proper treatment. And it’s not a condition they will grow out of.

In This Article

What is Speech Apraxia in Toddlers?

Signals must be sent from your brain to your lips for speech. These signals instruct the muscles to operate in a certain way and at a specific time to produce sounds. When a toddler develops apraxia of speech, the messages that are intended to be conveyed do not do so appropriately.

Even if the toddler’s muscles are not very weak, they may be unable to move their lips or tongue appropriately. There may be periods when the kid won’t be able to speak very much at all. Toddlers who have CAS are aware of what they want to convey. The issue is not how the toddler thinks but how the brain instructs the muscles in the toddler’s lips to move.

How Common is Apraxia in Toddlers?

Toddlers sitting together

If your toddler has childhood apraxia of speech, they may have trouble with verbal communication. Even though they know what they want to say, children with CAS have difficulty making the physical motions of their lips necessary to generate speech effectively.

Apraxia in toddlers is a challenging illness to understand. Diagnosing may be challenging as well. As a result, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) may be required for an accurate diagnosis. It may be necessary for both parents and the SLP to keep a close eye on a toddler’s speech development throughout time. However, please note that speech apraxia in toddlers is a very rare disorder. It is so rare that only 1-2 out of every 1,000 children in the United States suffer from it.

What Causes Speech Apraxia in Toddlers?

Childhood apraxia of speech is a genetic disease in which the brain does not seem to function properly. However, in most instances, a definite cause cannot be identified. A child’s brain impairment due to CAS may not be immediately noticeable to doctors. However, some of the most common causes of speech apraxia in toddlers are

  • Stroke, infections, and traumatic brain injuries are all potential causes of this chronic syndrome
  • In some cases, childhood apraxia of speech is only a symptom of an underlying genetic illness, syndrome, or metabolic issue. For instance, the risk of getting CAS among children with Galactosemia is much higher
  • Toddlers suffering from other underlying conditions like- autism, ADHD, epilepsy may also get speech apraxia

The term developmental apraxia is sometimes used to refer to CAS. Toddlers with CAS, however, may not outgrow the disorder as they mature. Many children with speech delays or developmental problems follow typical language acquisition patterns but do so at a slower rate.

[Read : How To Deal With A Child Who Has ADHD]

Symptoms of Speech Apraxia in Toddlers

Symptoms of speech apraxia in toddlers

Apraxia is characterized by a wide range of speech-related symptoms. These symptoms may differ from one toddler to another. Some of the symptoms are

  • Not making babbling sounds in infancy
  • Taking long pause between sounds
  • Making only limited sounds
  • Some toddlers have trouble putting sounds together. This may start from their infancy itself
  • Having trouble pronouncing very lengthy or difficult words
  • Words are repeatedly attempted to be spoken in different way
  • Face problem in imitating or copying the words they listen from others
  • Their speech is very hard to understand especially for those who don’t know the kid well
  • Inability to put together sentences in the correct sequence to produce words, or face difficulty in doing so
  • Erroneous inflections or stresses are placed on certain words
  • Inconsistencies in one’s speech, such as correctly pronouncing a given sound or word in some contexts but not in others
  • Use of nonverbal modes of communication in an excessive amount
  • Omitting consonants at the beginnings and endings of words
  • A warping of the sounds of the vowels
  • Appearing to groan or struggle to form words
  • Apraxia of speech in childhood rarely happens by itself. It is often accompanied by additional verbal or cognitive impairments, which might result in the following:
  • A vocabulary with few words
  • Coordination issues as well as difficulties with fine motor abilities
  • Grammatical issues
  • Having trouble chewing food and swallowing it
  • Clumsiness

What Are the Complications of Speech Apraxia in Toddlers?

Complications of speech apraxia in toddlers

Many factors contribute to impaired communication skills in toddlers with apraxia of speech. These problems may or may not be related to the disease. However, these difficulties are quite typical for toddlers with childhood apraxia of speech:

  • Delay in the acquisition of language. Toddlers who suffer from a developmental form of apraxia of speech have a restricted vocabulary, difficulty comprehending speech, and difficulty utilizing grammar correctly.
  • Slow development of both mind and body. It’s possible for kids with CAS to struggle in school, especially in language arts.
  • Hypersensitivity, some kids with CAS have developed aversions to particular materials, foods, and articles of clothing. Children with autism and speech apraxia share this characteristic.

When to See a Doctor?

Make an appointment with a speech-language pathologist if your toddler is showing symptoms of CAS or is failing to meet language development milestones such as learning to talk or identifying familiar items. If you notice that your toddler is having difficulty eating or coordinating movements with their mouth unrelated to speaking, you should contact your healthcare practitioner as soon as possible.

[Read : Speech And Language Development Milestones In Toddlers]

How is Speech Apraxia in Toddlers Treated?

How is speech apraxia treated in toddlers

Your toddler could potentially benefit from a linguistic evaluation. The speech-language pathologist will assess your toddler and start therapy accordingly. Some cases of speech apraxia may require more intense treatment. So, the speech-language pathologist may call your child 4-5 times in a week as well.

Treatment for speech apraxia involves-

  • Attending speech therapy to take help with pronouncing syllables, words, and phrases at a pace which suits their personal requirements
  • Learning to communicate using alternative means of communication like sign language
  • The speech-language pathologist may have your toddler repeat a word many times. Your tiny tot may also be asked to recite words that gradually increase in length

For us adults, it gets pretty frustrating if you’ve met someone several times but cannot recall their name. Your todller with CAS may feel the same way when they know someone’s name but are unable to say it because they lack the speech skills necessary to do so. Your toddler will need ongoing speech therapy to enhance their communication ability, and will benefit greatly from it. Every day, your toddler will progress in communicating with you, and you should be there to support and encourage them.


1. Can a Toddler Overcome Apraxia?

CAS is a disorder that does not go away as the child ages, and there is no treatment for it. Your toddler may exhibit dissatisfaction if they want to say something but cannot transmit that message. Receiving therapy as soon as possible might help ease that frustration.

2. Can a Child With Apraxia Have a Normal Life?

With proper treatment a child with apraxia can lead a normal life. Children with more severe speech apraxia at the outset are more likely to recover fully with intensive speech treatment than those with less or severe co-occurring difficulties. However, with the right help, children with multiple severe issues can improve their communication and language skills. Last but not least, the motivation of both the kid and the family is often a factor that contributes to the long-term consequences.

3. How Can I Prevent Speech Apraxia in My Toddler?

There is no way that one can prevent speech apraxia in a toddler, as it is a neurological condition. Some cases of speech apraxia are also linked to genetic mutation. So, if you are pregnant or plan to conceive, then you can ask your doctor for genetic screening to assess your risk of having a child with genetic issues.

Read Also: Dealing with Delayed Speech and Language Development in Children

Editorial Team,

With a rich experience in pregnancy and parenting, our team of experts create insightful, well-curated, and easy-to-read content for our to-be-parents and parents at all stages of parenting.Read more.

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