Children with dyspraxia are likely to need some level of support from professionals. These might include an occupational therapist, physical therapist, or academic support at school, to name a few.
Many kids with dyspraxia will also need speech therapy. Let’s take a look at the signs of dyspraxia, how speech therapy helps dyspraxia, and how a speech evaluation for dyspraxia works.
What is dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder that begins in childhood. It can cause life-long challenges with motor skills, movement, coordination, and processing. Another term for this condition is developmental coordination disorder (DCD).
What are symptoms of dyspraxia?
Some signs of dyspraxia include:
Poor balance and coordination
Vision and perception problems
Difficulty with reading or writing
Challenges with short-term memory
Dyspraxia can also affect speech. People with dyspraxia may have communication-related issues. They may have delayed language development as young kids, and they may not reach speech and language milestones at the expected ages. They may have trouble speaking clearly, or difficulty with expressing their thoughts or processing verbal speech.
Children with dyspraxia may also have difficulty with social skills. It may be hard for them to have conversations with others or pick up on nonverbal cues like facial expressions.
What’s the difference between dyspraxia and verbal dyspraxia?
Let’s take a moment to talk about a few different terms related to dyspraxia.
“Dyspraxia” refers to the neurological disorder described above, which can affect many aspects of a child’s development.
In some countries, people use the term “verbal dyspraxia” to refer to what we in the U.S. call “apraxia of speech.”
Apraxia of speech is a neurological oral-motor condition that disrupts speech. With apraxia of speech, the signals between the brain and mouth muscles are not sent correctly, making it hard to make the mouth movements needed to speak.
So, a child may have overall dyspraxia, with accompanying speech or language problems. In these cases, the child may be diagnosed with a receptive or expressive language disorder or a speech sound disorder.
Or, a child could have apraxia of speech–a distinct motor disorder related to speech production. You may hear this called “verbal dyspraxia,” but in the U.S. it’s known as childhood apraxia of speech.
How can speech therapy help with dyspraxia?
Are you confused yet? It’s a lot to sift through! But here’s an important thing to keep in mind. No matter what a child’s diagnosis is, a speech therapist will assess their current speech and language abilities and create a treatment plan focused on their needs.
If a child is having trouble with comprehension skills or expressing their thoughts clearly, the speech therapist will evaluate their language development. If a child is struggling to pronounce sounds correctly, the speech therapist will perform an articulation or phonological assessment. From there, they can determine if an articulation disorder, phonological disorder, or apraxia of speech is present.
While a speech therapist cannot diagnose dyspraxia, if they believe a child shows signs of dyspraxia, they can speak with the child’s pediatrician to get their input. Your child’s health care professionals can work together to ensure your child gets the treatment and support they need!
What to expect in speech therapy for dyspraxia
Your speech therapist will create a treatment plan for your child that reflects their current needs. If a child is not talking, speech therapy will likely begin with helping the child use verbalizations, or even signs, gestures, or AAC, in order to begin communicating as quickly as possible.
If a child has unclear speech and is hard to understand, the speech therapist will determine which speech sounds the child is ready to begin working on and focus on those. Which type of speech sound disorder is present will influence the type of approach used in therapy.
You can also expect the speech therapist to provide activities and exercises to practice at home. Practicing between sessions helps your child use the skills they’re learning in therapy. It’s exciting when kids begin making progress and meeting goals in their speech therapy sessions. But they need to be able to demonstrate their newfound skills at home, at school, and when out and about.
It’s the speech therapist’s job to help their clients reach independence. Focus on what your child’s speech therapist tells you to work on at home, and you’re sure to see progress!
How to find a speech therapist and what questions to ask
If you think your child needs help with their speech, there’s no reason to wait to find a speech therapist. You can do this by talking with your child’s doctor, or asking family or friends about speech therapists they recommend. You can also call speech therapy practices to learn more about them. Unfortunately there are often wait lists before a child can have a speech evaluation, so don’t hesitate to start the process.
It helps to know what types of questions to ask in order to feel comfortable and ready at the start of speech therapy. Here are some questions to ask the speech therapist and what to tell them about your child:
Tell them your specific concerns about your child’s communication skills. Is it vocabulary use? Speech sound productions? Social skills?
Let them know when you first noticed problems or began having concerns.
Ask about the speech therapist’s experience and what type of diagnoses they typically treat.
Tell the speech therapist about your child’s personality and what motivates them. This will help the speech therapist make sessions enjoyable for your child, so the work feels more like play!