What methods are used during therapy for Childhood Apraxia of Speech?When reviewing the most effective methods for treatment of children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech there seems to be a unifying theme and that is neurology. CAS is a neurological disorder. The areas and pathways in the brain that are typically responsible for the motor planning of speech are not functioning properly. The purpose of therapy is to retrain those areas to be more efficient at their job and to recruit other areas and pathways in the brain to help when possible. The best way to enlist other areas of the brain to help out is to take a multisensory approach to therapy.
Multisensory Stimulation TechniquesTypically speech involves listening to a speech stimulus and responding appropriately. This uses specific areas in the brain that are separate from the areas that listen to and enjoy music. The speech listening pathways are different from the areas involved in watching and interpreting visual signals. The speech listening pathways are different from the sensory receptors that feel touch on the skin.
What does all of that mean for therapy? It means that when you use multiple sensory pathways when trying to stimulate speech, you recruit other areas of the brain to help out the speech areas that are struggling. So, the speech therapist may use music to try to elicit speech productions to enlist the help of the part of the brain that listens to and enjoys music. The speech therapist may use tapping (tapping, clapping, or snapping with each syllable) to enlist the part of the brain that involves rhythm and basic math. Tapping draws the attention to each separate syllable in a way that simply saying them separately does not. You can use tapping to engage multiple pathways by gently tapping the child's hand or leg along with the syllables which also engages the part of the brain that senses touch. The speech therapist may use visual hand signals paired with specific speech sounds to enlist the part of the brain that interprets visual signals. The speech therapist may use touch on the child's face to cue certain speech sounds or movements.
For children who are nonverbal, often big body motions like swinging on a swing or bouncing on an exercise ball paired with music can help elicit some first sounds. The therapist will try to engage different senses to find one type of stimulation that helps or a combination of stimulation methods that help elicit speech.
Manipulate rateSometimes slowing down speech can help. Doing things more slowly allows more time for motor planning. Your therapist may incorporate practice with slowing down speech production to try to help your child be successful at producing speech targets.
What does a speech language pathologist teach children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech?This is an incredibly complex topic. I'm just going to try to give you a basic overview of the type of things your therapist will think about when choosing goals for your child.
Your therapist will choose targets for your child based upon their professional expertise, their assessment of your child's current skill level, their knowledge of which targets would be age-appropriate, what the child is stimulable for, and their assessment of your child's most pressing needs. (Your child may be missing 10 age-appropriate sounds, but one particular missing sound makes him or her really hard to understand. That would be the sound to work on first.)
When working with children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech therapists are usually following a therapy principle called a series of successive approximations. Essentially, the therapist starts with what your child can do and treats that as correct. Then they try to get that a little closer to "correct" and treat that new level as correct. Once that is well established, they make it a little harder and call that new level correct. For example, your child might be saying "ba" for "bottle," but not very often. First your therapist will treat that as correct, and just get your child to do it more often. Then the therapist will make the task a little harder and try to get your child to say "baba." Now "ba" is considered to be incorrect and "baba is considered to be correct. Once "baba" is well established the difficulty would be increased again to "bata." And so on.
Specific therapy targets will vary widely from child to child. The targets may include specific consonant or vowel sounds, eliminating a speech habit (like leaving off consonants at the ends of words), increasing the number of words in your child's vocabulary, increasing the types of syllables your child can use, and increasing your child's utterance length (from no words to one-word utterances, from one-word utterances to two-word phrases, from two-word phrases to three-word phrases, etc.).
SummaryYour therapist will carefully choose individualized targets for your child based upon their assessment of your child and their professional expertise. They will slow down their rate of speech and your child's rate of speech to allow for extra processing time. They will use multisensory therapy techniques in order to engage as many areas of the brain as possible to improve speech production. They will start with what your child can do and gradually increase their expectations over time as your child improves.
You just finished Part 3 of a three part series on Childhood Apraxia of Speech Therapy Fundamentals.
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