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Ask the Expert: What is Childhood Apraxia of Speech?

Wondering about childhood apraxia of speech? NYC-based speech-language pathologist Heather Boerner weighs in on the pediatric speech disorder, explaining what apraxia is and how it's treated in children.


child with speech delayI'm seeing this particular disorder more frequently in my practice. We don’t know why, but it is definitely becoming more prevalent or at least being identified more.

Childhood apraxia of speech is a common disorder that affects a child's ability to speak. It's a type of motor speech disorder, which means they have difficulty producing sounds, syllables, and words, as well as difficulty with motor planning or coordinating the movement needed to make speech.

There could be underlying neurological reasons as to why a child has apraxia. It occurs frequently in children with autism, but I see it in children who don’t have autism—it’s just a developmental delay that they need some extra support with.

One technique that I’ve found to be successful in treating apraxia is called PROMPT therapy, and that stands for "prompts for restructuring oral musculature phonetic targets." This is a very long title for a technique in which the clinician touches the child's face in targeted ways, in order to help them say a word. For example, if the child is having difficulty saying "mama," I use specific tactile cues—I put their lips together to form the "m" sound, then drop their jaw for the "a," then put their lips together for the second "m" and drop the jaw again for the last "a." So I’m teaching them, through touch on their face, how to say the sounds and how to move through the motor planning to say each sound.


Heather Boerner, MA, CCC/SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist and the founder of Chatty Child Speech Therapy, PLLC in Manhattan. Boerner graduated from New York University with an MA in speech-language pathology and a minor in education, and she is licensed to teach speech- and hearing-disabled students.


Also see: Boerner explains feeding disorders and what causes them


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