Apraxia is a disorder in which an individual experiences difficulty carrying out simple movements or tasks, while speech apraxia is a condition where a person in unable to speak correctly. These maladies are caused by an impairment to the central nervous system, rather than from weakness of the muscles of the body or muscles involved in speech. In other words, ataxia is a disorder of motor planning. No medications are available for treating these disorders, but apraxia therapy in the form of physical, occupational, and speech therapy may help. Counseling may also be helpful by providing ways for the patient as well as the caregiver to cope with the disability.
In some instances of acquired speech apraxia, patients will recover without intervention. In cases where spontaneous recovery doesn't occur, speech therapy is often beneficial. Speech pathologists will employ different methods of apraxia therapy, but no means of intervention has proven to be the most helpful. Patients will require extensive one-on-one therapy, as well as support from family and friends. Serious cases may need to be taught alternative methods of speaking, such as the use of sign language or communicating with a computer.
Apraxia cases unrelated to speech can be divided into different categories. Ideational apraxia denotes the inability to perform tasks in the correct order, such as putting on socks. Ideomotor apraxia involves the inability to carry out tasks associated with certain objects, such as trying to write with a toothbrush. Apraxia therapy for such patients may take the form of occupational therapy, but, if the condition is due to a brain injury or stroke, the outlook may be difficult.
Safety precautions should be taken in the home if the apraxia patient exhibits confusion, seizures, or sensory impairments. Family and friends should exercise great patience in allowing patients time to communicate or to perform a series of movements. Methods of carrying out tasks can be demonstrated, but complex directions should be avoided. Apraxia therapy can be augmented by the cooperation and encouragement of members of the patient's household.
The type of total medical intervention employed will depend in part on the cause of the apraxia. Any of the types of apraxia can be caused by brain tumors, dementia, or strokes. Other causes may be hemodialysis of long duration, or disorders involving deterioration of the nervous system. Treatments for ataxia will be tailored to the individual needs of the patient, taking into account the causative agent as well as other factors.