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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Apraxia of speech

Mate whakahauā ā-reo

Woman with apraxia struggles to find wordsApraxia of speech (also known as verbal dyspraxia) is a motor speech disorder. You know what you want to say, but your brain has trouble telling your speech muscles how to move. The muscles are not weak.

You may have difficulty starting a word – your muscles may need to search for the right place before you can say the word correctly. Your speech may sound distorted and slow. Each time you say a word, it may sound different, which can be frustrating. Long words and sentences may be harder. Everyday sayings may be easier than answering questions or describing something.

The level of difficulty varies between people. Some people may not be able to speak at all. Other may only have occasional problems with a word.

You may have both aphasia (a language disorder) and apraxia of speech. One of these disorders may be worse than the other.

Causes of apraxia of speech

Apraxia of speech is caused by damage to the areas of the brain that coordinate the muscles involved in speech. This includes the muscles of the lungs, voice box, lips and tongue.

You may have had a stroke (the most common cause) or a head injury (for example, in a car accident).

Getting better from apraxia of speech

A lot can change over the first few days, weeks and months. Some people recover very quickly. For others, it is a long, slow process.

You may never communicate as well as you did before. But some people still see signs of progress years later.

Getting help with apraxia of speech

A speech-language therapist can work with you and your whānau (family) to help improve your speech and develop new ways to communicate effectively.

There are things you can do yourself to help.

Try to relax and take your time. Keep your answers short and simple. If you get stuck on a word, try:

People you communicate with can also help by:

You might also find useful information in the page about Dysarthria.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by speech-language therapists, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Waitaha Canterbury. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2023.


See also:

Communicating with someone who cannot talk

Tips for better communication

Page reference: 78424

Review key: HISCD-79694