Movement disorders refers to a group of neurological conditions that cause abnormal movements of the body. These movements can be voluntary or involuntary and can cause reduced or slow movements. The causes are varied and may include: head trauma, infection, inflammation, metabolic disturbances, and brain injuries. Below are some common childhood movement disorders that we treat.

Signs of Childhood Apraxia of Speech

In childhood apraxia of speech (CAS), the child has difficulty with movements required for speaking. During the communication process, a child’s brain must tell the muscles how and when to move to make sounds and this must occur seamlessly. For children with CAS, these messages are distorted and unable to be fully processed. Although children with apraxia know what they want to say, they are unable to get the muscles of their mouth to move appropriately.

Childhood apraxia of speech varies with each child. While some may demonstrate many of the commons signs, others exhibit only a few. Below are some common signs of apraxia of speech.

Below The Age Of Three

  • Limited or no cooing or babbling as an infant
  • Speaks first words later than expected
  • Only makes a few sounds
  • Has difficulty combining sounds
  • Takes long pauses between sounds
  • Cannot say the same words in different ways
  • Has problems with eating

Above The Age Of Three

  • Understands much better than he/she is able to articulate
  • Has problems imitating what others say
  • Cannot be understood easily by new acquaintances
  • Has to move lips, tongue, or jaw multiple times before making sounds
  • Experiences more difficulty with speaking when nervous
  • Puts emphasis on the wrong syllable or word

Causes of Childhood Apraxia of Speech

Childhood apraxia of speech has many potential causes and often the cause cannot be determined. Even if tests are done on the brain (e.g.: MRI, CT scan), it may not yield conclusive results. This can be frustrating for families looking for answers to their child’s speech troubles.

While there is ambiguity regarding the causes of CAS, below are what researchers believe to be the most common causes:

  • Brain Condition or Injury — stroke, infection, or traumatic brain injury.
  • Complex Neurodevelopmental Disorder — genetic, metabolic, and mitochondrial disorders (autism, galactosemia, epilepsy, chromosome translocations, etc.).
  • Idiopathic Speech Disorder — this has become the catchall for CAS-related disorders with unknown origins. In this situation, children demonstrate no observable neurological abnormalities or neurodevelopmental conditions.

Treating Childhood Apraxia of Speech

Apraxia is not a condition that a child simply outgrows. If your child has apraxia of speech, he or she will not adhere to typical patterns of development without treatment. For this reason, diagnosing and treating CAS at an early stage is crucial.

If your child is having speech problems, seek an evaluation from a trained speech language pathologist. Often a combination of testing your child’s hearing, oral-motor skills, speech melody, and overall speech capability is needed to determine if your child requires therapy.

The goal of treatment is to help your child communicate more clearly. To accomplish this, speech pathologists will help your child learn how to plan movements and make those movements at the right time. This requires exercises to strengthen muscles and extensive, regular practice.

At FUNctionabilities, we specialize in speech therapy for kids. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation with a pediatric speech language pathologist.

Signs of Childhood Dysarthria

Dysarthria describes a collection of speech disorders that are caused by weak mouth and respiratory system muscles that impairs speech. Because dysarthria can affect a number of speech-related muscles (e.g. tongue, lips, palate, jaw, and larynx), it can disrupt more than one area of speech (e.g. breathing, articulation, rhythm, rate, voice, etc.). Dysarthria varies greatly in severity and potential causes related to brain or nerve damage. When diagnosed and treated early, significant improvements may be made.

The signs and severity of dysarthria symptoms depends on where the damage is in the nervous system. Dysarthria can range from speech muscle weakness to full paralysis. Babies may have dysarthria, but may not exhibit signs and symptoms until they begin talking. As a child grows, dysarthria may become more pronounced and recognizable such as slurred speech and other abnormalities.

Below are common signs of childhood dysarthria:

For Children

  • Speaks slowly
  • Slurs speech
  • Has trouble controlling speech volume
  • Unable to control the pitch of his/her voice
  • Speaks with a nasally or hoarse voice (or a combination of both)
  • Has difficulty controlling breath while speaking
  • Experiences problems articulating long words

For Infants

  • Has trouble eating and swallowing
  • Demonstrates abnormalities in sucking or swallowing
  • Often gags, drools, or chokes

Causes of Childhood Dysarthria

Dysarthria is caused by a variety of nervous system disorders. Typically, the causes are divided into two distinct classes: pre-birth neurological insults and post-birth neurological abnormalities. Neurological problems that occur before birth include genetic or chromosomal abnormalities such as: spina bifida or hydrocephalus. Neurological causes that occur after birth include: infection, stroke, brain trauma, or brain tumor.

Childhood Dysarthria Treatment

Before childhood dysarthria can be treated, it must be properly diagnosed. Unfortunately, in many cases, making a diagnosis in infants and children can be difficult. This is likely due to limited research regarding child-based dysarthria diagnostic methods; meaning pediatric speech language pathologists must rely on neurobehavioral classifications systems designed for adults.

Depending on the severity of the dysarthria, treatment often includes a wide range of exercises to strengthen affected muscles and strategies to lessen the effects of dysarthria. Oral-motor strengthening exercises, neuro-musculature electrical stimulation, articulation exercises, and activities to reduce speech rate are all common forms of dysarthria treatment.

Speech and language pathologists work with the family, other therapists, the school, and caregivers to treat the child. Recent technological advancements in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices have improved their use for treating and coping with dysarthria.

If your child demonstrates signs of dysarthria, seek a trained pediatric speech and language pathologist to test your child’s oral-motor skills and overall speech abilities.

FUNctionabilities has a team of speech pathologists with experience diagnosing and treating childhood dysarthria. If you see your child struggling with speech difficulties and want help so that you and your child can better communicate, contact us today to schedule an evaluation.

Types of Dyspraxia

Also known as developmental coordination disorder, dyspraxia is a learning disorder that affects a child’s ability to do a wide range of day-to-day physical tasks. This learning condition can affect both fine motor skills (e.g. writing, buttoning, eating) and gross motor skills (e.g. walking, jumping, and staying balanced). Children with dyspraxia also tend to appear clumsy and struggle with balance and posture. Given this wide variety of potential symptoms, it is a condition that, when left untreated, can have a significant impact on everyday life.

  • Ideomotor Dyspraxia — Children with this type of dyspraxia often have trouble completing single-step motor tasks (e.g. waving hello).
  • Ideational Dyspraxia — This type makes it hard for children to perform tasks that require steps and a sequence of movements (e.g. brushing teeth or making a bed).
  • Oromotor Dyspraxia — This type of dyspraxia affects a child’s ability to speak and pronounce words (e.g. may slur words and come off as hard to understand). This is also known as apraxia of speech.
  • Constructional Dyspraxia — For children with this type, spatial relationships can be hard to comprehend (e.g. struggles to use building blocks or copy geometric drawings).

What Are The Signs Of Dyspraxia?

While some children may demonstrate all of the commons signs of dyspraxia, others may show just a few symptoms. Also, many symptoms only become noticeable as a child grows older. Below are some of the common signs of dyspraxia.

Preschool Child

  • Has difficulty pronouncing some words
  • Struggles to learn new sports and activities
  • Finds art projects challenging
  • Can’t grasp pencils and writing utensils
  • Has trouble working buttons, zippers, and snaps
  • Appears overly clumsy

Grade School Child

  • Is unable to pronounce words correctly
  • Has difficulty with physical activities
  • Writes poorly and at a slow pace
  • Seems clumsy and struggles with balance and coordination

Middle School Child

  • Finds it hard to use electronics (e.g. texting, keyboards, etc.)
  • Writes poorly and at a slow pace
  • Is awkward when playing sports
  • Has trouble speaking and pronouncing long, complex words
  • Is unable to stand for long periods

Early recognition and diagnosis of dyspraxia enables early intervention and improves the chances that your child will reach his or her full potential.

What Are The Causes Of Dyspraxia?

Researchers do not know the exact cause of dyspraxia. Many experts believe that genetics and problems with nerves cells are to blame. Similarly, other potential factors include premature births and low birth weights.

Treating Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia and other learning disorders can affect more than a child’s learning — they can also impact a child socially. Learning disorders can damage self-esteem and leave children feeling like something is wrong with them. This is especially true for children who have an undiagnosed learning disorder. If you suspect your child is exhibiting signs of a learning disorder, it is absolutely necessary to consult with a pediatrician and other specialists.

While an accurate and early diagnosis is important, the diagnosis alone is not the solution. To help your child succeed, he or she needs the right tools and support. There is no cure for dyspraxia, but there are a wide variety of therapies, strategies, and treatments to help. Common therapies used to treat dyspraxia include occupational therapy, speech therapy, perceptual motor training, and more. If you feel like this describes the struggles your child is experiencing,
contact FUNctionabilities today to schedule an evaluation at our Draper facility.

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Pediatric Therapy in Draper, Utah

Receiving a diagnosis and coping with the symptoms of movement disorders can be overwhelming. At FUNctionabilities, we understand your child’s difficulties and heartaches and do all in our power to involve you, the parent. Your involvement and education are key to your child’s success. We are adept at improving symptoms of movement disorders through the following skill-oriented pediatric therapies:

FUNctionabilities is proud to have built a sensory-rich environment that was specially designed to help children have fun while learning and improving their lives. We utilize evidence-based therapies and methods and strive to create a stress-free, empowering environment that improves your child’s function and helps him or her to reach their highest potential. We make therapy fun so your child is “Learning to Play” and “Playing to Learn.” Contact us today to schedule an evaluation.