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The word ‘dyspraxia’ comes from the Greek dys- meaning ‘difficulty’ and -praxis meaning ‘control of movement’.
Oral dyspraxia means a reduced ability to voluntarily control single or sequenced silent movements of the lips, tongue or soft palate.
Verbal dyspraxia affects the purposeful control of the movements necessary for speech. The term verbal dyspraxia is also known as developmental articulatory dyspraxia. In the UK the term apraxia of speech usually refers to children who have a severe disorder and are not talking at all (from the Greek a- meaning ‘without’).
Both of these conditions occur in the absence of any muscle weakness. The child can be of normal intelligence and have an age-appropriate ability to understand spoken language. The child knows what he/she wants to say but persistently makes speech errors which are not usually made at his or her age.
In dyspraxia, speech is limited and may be difficult for people to understand. A dyspraxic child may have difficulty saying single speech sounds, imitating strings of different sounds and sequencing sounds together to form words. Poor intelligibility is often due to a child’s limited range of speech sounds and omission or substitution of sounds. These difficulties may also mean that the child may not be able to use the correct grammatical endings for words.
A child with speech dyspraxia may also have fine or gross motor dyspraxia so that they lack control and co-ordination of movements involving the fingers and limbs. This can affect handwriting and drawing skills. Where there is oral dyspraxia there is also often a history of difficulties with sucking, licking, blowing and feeding.
Children with speech disorders may become frustrated at not being able to communicate. It is therefore advisable to begin Speech and Language Therapy to help with the child’s speech and also to minimize the loss of self-esteem and confidence. Speech and Language Therapy for oro-motor and verbal dyspraxia can begin at two years of age.
Seminars for both parents and professionals on speech disorders are run at the Speech Language and Literacy Therapy Practice.