Does Your Child Have a Speech Problem? 5 Characteristics of Childhood Apraxia of Speech

speech problem

Do you have a difficult time understanding what your child says?

Does your preschooler's speech sound robotic and lack pitch variation?

When your child repeats a word, does he or she pronounce the word differently each time?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child may have a motor speech disorder called Childhood Apraxia of Speech or CAS. The ChildhoodApraxiaAssociation of North America estimates that 3-5% of preschoolers are affected by CAS. CAS is a motor planning problem and not weakness, paresis, or paralysis of the speech muscles.

5 Characteristics of Childhood Apraxia of Speech

1. Difficulty consistently moving the speech articulators (lips, jaw, tongue)

A child with CAS may have a hard time moving their lips, jaw, or tongue to the specific spot they need to be to make a certain sound. Often the sound is halfway between one sound or another.

Example: A child may be able to say the /d/ sound in the word “dog”, but he or she tries to say the /d/ sound for the word radio it comes out as a /l/ or /n/ resulting in “ralio” or “ranio”.

2. Difficulty making smooth movements between sounds in words and syllables

Words may have long and awkward pauses or breaks between sounds or syllables. This occurs because the child has a hard time coordinating moving his or her jaw, lips or tongue from one sound to another. They also may have a difficult time transitioning between a voice to a voiceless sound. Voiced sounds, such as vowels, /b/, /d/, /z/ and /g/, require the vocal cords to vibrate. Voiceless sounds, such as /f/, /h/, /k/, /p/, and /s/, do not require the vocal folds to vibrate together.

Example: A child pauses awkwardly between sounds and syllables so a sentence sounds choppy. (“The-do-g-is-un-der-the-fen-ce.” instead of “The dog is under the fence.”.

Example: A child may be trying to say the word “hat” but separates each sound with great effort, so the word sounds like “hhh-aw-t“.

Example: A child had a hard time transitioning from a voiceless to a voiced sound when trying to say the word party so there is a long pause between the /p/ and the “a”.

3. Vowel Distortions Children with CAS make vowel sounds that are not part of the English language. Distortions may occur because the child has poor coordination to move his lips, tongue or jaw or does not have enough muscle tension. Vowels may also be distorted because the child has reduced the movement required to get to the vowel or the sound after the vowel.

Example: When trying to say the word “bike” the child produces vowel sounds that like “bek” or “bok” but are not accurate enough sound like any vowel in the English language.

4. Prosody Errors

Prosody is the pitch, stress, rhythm, intonation, and rate of speech. In other words, the music of speech and language. A child with CAS often has very little to no prosodic features, resulting in robotic or monotone speech.

5. Inconsistent Error Sounds in Repeated Production of Words

A child with CAS may repeat the same word several times and produce it a different way each time. This occurs because the child has not mastered being able to coordinate and time his or her movements to produce a word correctly.

Example: A child may try to say the word “happy”, but says “babby”, “hoppy” and “habby”.

Children with CAS have a mismatch between their expressive language (the use of words to communicate what a person wants and thinks) and receptive language (the ability to understand a message that is heard, read or interpreted from body language) skills. The child's receptive language skills are developmentally at age level, but their expressive language skills are significantly delayed.

If you are concerned that your child may have childhood apraxia of speech, it is important to have them evaluated by a qualified Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). Once a diagnoses of CAD is determined, the SLP will recommend a specific frequency of therapy. Children with CAS require frequent and intensive therapy.

Read more on how to locate a Speech-Language Pathologist, including age specific evaluation options. For more information CAS be sure to visit The ChildhoodApraxiaof Speech Association of North America.

What do you think?

Does Your Child Have a Speech Problem? 5 Characteristics of Childhood Apraxia of Speech

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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  1. Angelang03 says:

    Helpful. My son does have areas of concern. We are also getting his hearing tested.

  2. Mari says:

    Very helpful 🙂


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