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Verbal dyspraxia adversely impacts speech, and it is characterized as a motor and neurological disorder in which transmission of certain messages between the brain and the muscles of the face is disrupted. Difficulties in correctly moving the tongue, lips, or jaw compound the condition. Sound and syllable production is therefore hindered.
Verbal dyspraxia — also known as apraxia of speech or articulatory dyspraxia — develops due to a neurological problem. Interruption of transmitted messages between the brain and certain muscles forms the basis of dyspraxia. In the case of verbal dyspraxia, numerous muscles around the mouth and jaw that together coordinate speech are suppressed. Individuals may be born with the brain alteration, which is why some call it developmental verbal dyspraxia. Traumatic brain damage sustained at any age may facilitate the condition as well.
Speech abnormalities comprise most developmental dyspraxia symptoms. The individual may struggle to say a word correctly or to sequence sentences in proper order. Thus, a large portion of attempted verbal communication may not be understandable. This is a form of ideanational and ideo-motor dyspraxia, because, while speech muscles themselves are not impaired, the ability to plan and execute their movements is hindered. Difficulty breathing or feeding may manifest in some dyspraxia cases.
Delayed reaching of common developmental communication milestones may signal verbal dyspraxia in children. Speaking ability may be completely nonexistent, especially if the condition develops before speech can be initiated. If speech is present, difficulty pronouncing vowel sounds correctly may be a particularly prevalent sign of childhood dyspraxia. Children also may say one word or sound repeatedly while attempting to communicate something else, which is a symptom called perseveration. Slow, limited vocabulary and groping for words are also frequent indicators of verbal dyspraxia in both children and adults.
Verbal dyspraxia may be symptomatic of a larger degree of developmental dyspraxia in which movement and coordination of various body parts suffer. Learning or memory disorders can coexist with the condition, although dyspraxia may be present in the absence of other conditions. Studies also indicate that males may be more susceptible to dyspraxia than females. Despite gender, dyspraxia is often a lifelong condition.
Ironically, when a verbal dyspraxic individual becomes frustrated, speaking may improve. When one is not thinking about words, producing them becomes a more automatic response. Dyspraxia may not inflict as readily upon such naturalized speech, as the action is less dependent upon complex brain commands.
Verbal dyspraxia treatment may require years of commitment. Treatments are intensive, and a specialist may try many options before finding a protocol that works for a specific individual. In some cases, computer programs, sign language, or picture-oriented communication may aid patients. Speech therapists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists can address each patient’s unique needs.