Childhood Apraxia of Speech Cases on the Rise

October 29, 2007

Speech pathologists at Nationwide Childrens Hospital report an increasing number of patients diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech, a motor speech disorder in which children have difficulty saying basic sounds and words.  As a result, they are urging parents and pediatricians to be on the lookout for symptoms of the condition.

In 2006, 150 kids at Nationwide Childrens, seven percent of all speech therapy patients, were diagnosed with apraxia of speech.  Thats more than double the year before. Meanwhile, the number of speech pathology patients overall increased by just 13 percent from 2005 to 2006.  While there is little national data available representing the number of children with apraxia of speech, speech therapists at Nationwide Childrens estimate as many as one to 10 children out of every 1,000 kids may have the disorder. 

Children with apraxia of speech know what they want to say, but their brains have difficulty coordinating the muscle movements of the lips, jaw and tongue necessary to say those words.   Often, these kids speak in only vowel sounds or chunks of words and sentences are missing.

This is often very frustrating for the child, who desperately wants to be understood and cant understand why he or she is unable to communicate, said Christina Doelling, a speech pathologist at Nationwide Childrens Hospital.  Many times, kids with speech problems will act out, become aggressive or exhibit other behavioral problems.

Therapists say the earlier the condition is diagnosed and intervention begins, the greater the opportunity for significant improvement in speech and communication.  Speech pathologists teach kids how to make individual sounds and then make those sounds longer to form words and eventually sentences.  With therapy, many children are able to communicate normally.  Some are also taught sign language to help them communicate.

Nationwide Childrens speech pathologists encourage parents to pay attention to the following signs and symptoms that may indicate a speech or language problem, such as childhood apraxia of speech.

The child:
-Does not coo or babble as an infant.
-Begins speaking late. 
-Only voices a few different consonant and vowel sounds.
-Struggles combining sounds. 
-Has problems eating.
-Has difficulty imitating speech.
-Sounds choppy, monotonous and difficult to understand.
-Appears to be groping when attempting to speak.

Not all children are the same, so it is important not to jump to conclusions and to have a speech pathologist evaluate the child if there are any signs of a speech or language problem.


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About Nationwide Children's Hospital

Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report’s 2017-18 list of “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric healthcare systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of nearly 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.4 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at NationwideChildrens.org.