Apraxia of speech is a speech disorder where the speech centers of the brain do not communicate effectively with the muscles in the mouth that form spoken words. Words will come out unintelligibly and mistakes in speech are inconsistent.
Here are ways to diagnose apraxia of speech:
- Record the subject’s speech patterns over a length of time. Over a span of weeks and months, monitor the subject as he tries to form words and sentences. Take note of every mistake and mispronunciation. A lengthy history of speech patterns will reveal the existence and extent of most disorders, including apraxia.
- Determine if he has problems combining sounds. An apraxia sufferer will have more difficulty with complex words compared to simple ones, including polysyllabic structures. He easily loses control of muscle control over these elaborate sounds.
- Check if he substitutes difficult words with easier versions. In an attempt to make himself understandable and to avoid repeating himself, an apraxia sufferer will use several simple words in place of one complex word. Not only will this be a symptom of apraxia, but his grasp of vocabulary also reduces the chance that his disorder is one of retardation.
- Observe any hardship in managing lips, tongue and jaw to form words. His mouth will show quivering and hesitation as he attempts to make the sounds that accurately reflect the words he wants to make.
- Observe any incoherence while in a state of excitement. During emergencies, an apraxia sufferer will lose the concentration needed to properly form words. This can be frustrating for him, as the information needed to resolve the emergency will be rendered unintelligible despite his attempts. Only when he slows down and focuses on each word will he be able to convey the crucial message.
- Confirm that the subject can understand commands. Call to a child suspected of apraxia with commands of, "Come here." or "Sit down." If a child readily follows, this means he can hear and understands words clearly, but he cannot say them correctly. This will allow the observer to distinguish a case of apraxia from other speech disorders or even mental retardation.
- Observe if the child can master words only temporarily. An apraxia sufferer may be able to say new words properly given time, but will lose this ability as more time passes. Only with constant practice can he master new words.
- Observe prosody. Prosody is the changing rhythm, inflection and stress used in speaking to convey meaning. A sufferer of apraxia will have incorrect prosody as he is unable to master the complex inflections that differentiate similar-sounding words from each other.
- Submit to an MRI test. An MRI test will create a brain image and hopefully aid in differentiate apraxia of speech from other forms of speech disorder. Using a standard brain chart that maps out specific speech centers, an expert can determine the type and extent of damage, which is creating the apraxia.
Once you diagnose apraxia of speech on a person, bring him to a speech therapist to confirm the diagnosis. Work together with techniques to correct this disorder, which include constant practice and multi-sensory feedback.