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What is a motor speech disorder?

Indications of a motor speech disorder may be the inability to produce words or sentences as a result of trouble planning, coordinating, and executing the movements necessary to speak.

Apraxia

Apraxia is a motor speech disorder that occurs when the brain is unable to process the movements that are necessary to produce speech. Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is similar to apraxia in the adult population in that these children know what they want to say but cannot make the oral movements necessary to produce speech. Both children and adults with apraxia will struggle to say words consistently each time and will experience difficulty imitating others. Young children with CAS may not coo or babble as infants, may be later to say their first words, and may produce only a select few sounds.

For the adult population, apraxia is most commonly caused by a stroke, but may also be the result of head injury, brain tumors, dementia, or progressive neurological disorders. For children with CAS, etiologies are largely unknown but may be attributed to brain damage and/or genetic disorders and syndromes that cause brain damage.

Dysarthria

Dysarthria is another motor speech disorder that can affect children and adult’s ability to speak clearly. Dysarthria occurs when the muscles of the mouth, face, or respiratory system needed to produce speech have weakened. For both age groups, symptoms of dysarthria include slurred, inconsistent speech that may sound robotic or choppy.

Similar to apraxia, dysarthria may be the result of a neurological impairment. Common neurological impairments that cause dysarthria are stroke, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and Multiple sclerosis. Dysarthria can also result from conditions that produce facial paralysis and muscle weakness.

Assessment and treatment

The Eckelmann-Taylor Speech and Hearing Clinic is highly qualified to treat individuals seeking services for motor speech disorders. Experienced speech-language pathologists and graduate student clinicians conduct evaluations for disorders of apraxia and dysarthria and collaborate with clients to develop personalized intervention plans. Possible treatment for dysarthria and apraxia may be aimed at improving muscle strength, repeating sounds clearly in words and sentences, and the implementation of alternative communication options if appropriate.

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