What is apraxia of speech (AOS)?

Apraxia: What Is It?

According to Duffy (2013), apraxia of speech is “a neurologic speech disorder that reflects an impaired capacity to plan or program sensorimotor commands necessary for directing movements that result in phonetically and prosodically normal speech.”

But what does that mean? During typical speech production, the brain is responsible for creating a motor plan for the articulators (i.e., jaws, lips, tongue) to coordinate movements for speech production. For individuals with apraxia of speech, there are deficits in this motor planning component which impair the ability to produce speech which can be understood by familiar/unfamiliar adults and peers.

What causes apraxia of speech?

Both children and adults can be diagnosed with apraxia of speech for a variety of reasons including (but not limited to):

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Cerebrovascular accidents (CVA)
  • Infection
  • Neurological conditions
What is childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) and what are some common signs/symptoms?

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2018), childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is “a neurological childhood speech sound disorder in which the precision and consistency of movements underlying speech are impaired in the absence of neuromuscular deficits (e.g. abnormal reflexes, abnormal tone).”

However, there is not a comprehensive list of diagnostic features which differentiate CAS from other speech sound disorders. For that reason, experienced and specialized speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who diagnose this disorder often utilize an initial diagnostic evaluation and a series of skilled speech and language therapy sessions to assess the child’s speech. During this assessment, SLPs are able to identify characteristics consistent with CAS, and they can collect data to determine the prevalence of these characteristics during structured activities and conversational speech.

Although a comprehensive evaluation and a series of treatments are required before providing a diagnosis of CAS, the following characteristics are often observed in children with CAS:

  • “Inconsistent errors on consonants and vowels in repeated productions of syllables or words (meaning that if the child says the same word many times, it may sound differently each time)” (SLP Carrie, 2016).

  • “Lengthened and disrupted coarticulatory transitions between sounds and syllables (meaning that the child’s speech sounds choppy or disconnected due to trouble transitioning between sounds or between words in older children)” (SLP Carrie, 2016).

  • “Inappropriate prosody, especially in the realization of lexical or phrasal stress (meaning that the rhythm, intonation, and stress of speech may sound off, the child may sound robotic, have incorrect phrasing, or stress the wrong words or syllables)” (SLP Carrie, 2016).

I think my child has childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) – what do I do next?

As a parent, you can collaborate with your child’s speech-language pathologist to determine if a childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) diagnosis is appropriate, or if another differential diagnosis (i.e., phonological disorder, articulation disorder, dysarthria) is more appropriate.

Is your child not currently receiving speech therapy? Give us a call at (608) 819-6394 or contact us here for more information on our services!

Looking for more information?

Here are some recommended resources for parents and families:


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). (2018). Childhood apraxia of speech. Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Clinical-Topics/Childhood-Apraxia-of-Speech/

Duffy, Joseph R. (2013). Motor speech disorders: Substrates, differential diagnosis, and management. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

SLP Carrie. (2016). Childhood apraxia of speech resource page. Retrieved from https://www.speechandlanguagekids.com/childhood-apraxia-speech-resource-page/