Some of the structures involved in the production of speech include the muscles on the face, tongue, lips, and throats. Mechanisms controlled by muscles such as breathing and swallowing affect people’s ability to talk. Dysarthria is a speech production disorder related to the functions of motor neurons. It occurs in individuals with brain damage that causes facial muscle weakness. This disorder can present as either apraxia characterized by difficulty in getting messages from the brain to the muscles to trigger their movement or aphasia, which is characterized by challenges understanding what other people are saying. This paper will address issues related to apraxia and the current scientific studies related to that topic, including its diagnosis, possible treatment options, and current advances in apraxia.
Some of the common symptoms associated with this condition especially among children include delayed onset on the pronunciation of first words, limited spoken words or being unable to form a wide range of consonant and vowel sounds especially among children aged 18 months to 2 years. Individuals are usually diagnosed with this problem at an early age, which would explain the high rates of research concentrated on issues related to childhood apraxia. The symptoms of the apraxia can may remain until the school-going age. In some cases where apraxia is ignored or poorly managed, an individual may retain the symptoms well into the adulthood phase (Preston, et al., 2014). In a study that assessed children with speech difficulties, most of those diagnosed with apraxia were found to have difficulty in expressive grammar (Fiori, et al., 2016). Such assessments should be conducted within the first five years of life.
Although the problem is associated with brain damage, scientists have struggled with understanding its main cause and origin. Some of the recent studies have shown advances in relating apraxia with anomalies in a major speech pathway in the brain. Professor Morgan, a speech pathology lecturer, led the research and helped by a research team in the same field. They utilized sophisticated MRI scanning machines that were able to assess the accuracy of brain pathways through brain tractography analysis. Their participants included seven individuals with apraxia. The results obtained showed a difference in the dorsal language stream when compared to that of individuals without apraxia (Tondorf, 2019). This study provided a useful approach for assessing children with apraxia.
A research conducted on the efficiency of Nuffield Dyspraxia Programme-3rd edition (NDP-3) versus the Rapid Syllable Transition Treatment (ReST) showed that the results obtained from individuals who had gone through the NDP-3 were better as compared to individuals who had been exposed to the ReST therapy. The researchers concluded that based on confounding factors and their inability to determine whether the participants had developed speech production difficulties due to other conditions, their research could not be used as reliable evidence to make clinical decisions (Morgan, Murray, & Liegeios, 2018). More studies need to be carried out on larger populations to promote the reliability of these results. Other treatment options that have been considered include speech motor chaining with and without biofeedback and distributed practice (Preston, 2017). These speech therapy programs are based on repetitive training in listening and speaking.
Despite the ongoing studies investigating possible treatments for children affected by this condition, scientists have pointed out that diagnosing and providing behavioral treatments at an early age can reduce the risks related to long-term speech production problems. As such, parents who notice that their children exhibit speech production issues should take them to a speech pathologist for evaluation and treatment. Through such appointments, they can also determine the type of speech-related weakness affecting their children. Aside from that, the speech pathologist can also help parents by showing them the difference between delayed speech milestones and disorders.
Fiori, S., Guzzetta, A., Mitra, J., Pannek, K., Pasquariello, R., Cipriani, P., . . . Chilosi, A. (2016). Neuroanatomical correlates of childhood apraxia of speech: A connectomic approach. Neurolmage: Clinical, 12(894-901). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213158216302091.
Morgan, A. T., Murray, E., & Liegeios, F. J. (2018, May 30). Interventions for childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). Retrieved from Cochrane Library: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006278.pub3/epdf/full
Preston, J. (2017, August 3). Treating Childhood Apraxia of Speech. U.S National Library of Medicine: Clinical Trials Retrieved from https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03238677#wrapper
Preston, J. L., Molfese, P. J., Gumkowski, N., Sorcinelli, A., Harwood, V., Irwin, J., & Landi, N. (2014). Neurophysiology of Speech Differences in Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Developmental Neuropsychology, 39(5), 385-403. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4130155/.
Tondorf, C. (2019, February 16). New breakthrough in understanding a severe child speech impediment. Eurek Alert Retrieved from American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-02/uom-nbi022619.php