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What is Verbal Apraxia?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Verbal apraxia or apraxia of speech is either a condition people are born with or a condition they may get later that affects the ability to produce speech. It is not that the person with this condition is physically unable to talk. Instead, the ability to reliably say whole words or sounds of words can be impaired, creating a host of frustrations and difficulties. This is especially the case because reception of language or understanding of what is heard is often not significantly affected by the disorder. Very often the person with verbal apraxia knows exactly what to say but still cannot say it.

The two main types of this disorder are developmental and acquired. Acquired verbal apraxia tends to result from illnesses or injury that may affect the brain. People who suffer strokes can evolve this condition and it could be paired with other speech language disorders like physical weakness that affect word pronunciation. Traumatic brain injury, as from severe concussion or illnesses that create inflammation in the brain, might also result in apraxia of speech. With speech/language therapy, the condition may be temporary or it could remain permanent, depending on degree of damage.

Developmental apraxia of speech is something that may begin to be noticed as children start speaking more fluently, usually by the age of three or four. It might be missed though, but failure to be able to say what is needed tends not to go unnoticed once children begin formal schooling. Either before or after school begins, children who may have this condition are referred to specialists to attempt to diagnose it. Specific testing by speech-language pathologists may narrow down speech disorders, and additional symptoms like poor coordination, or reading or math challenges could suggest this condition too.

Some things that may be indicative of verbal apraxia in children include inability to say words that are known, rehearsing words, mixing syllables, placing stress on wrong syllables, appearing to know a word one day and not the next, and saying a word once but being unable to say it again. It’s important to understand that these “symptoms” are not necessarily verbal apraxia. Some kids may have speech delays that look like apraxia but are not. This is why meetings with a speech language pathologist are used to make an appropriate diagnosis. Some people also work with neurologists, otolaryngologists, or other doctors, as certain regions may require a medical professional to confirm diagnosis.

When verbal apraxia is diagnosed, the main goal is to support the person as much as possible through speech/language therapy, which can help increase number of words that may be said. Any learning disabilities may be addressed too. In some instances technology is of aid to people with this disorder, since a number of people with it can either learn or already possess the skills to type material, which can then be used for communication on a greater level.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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