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Verbal dyspraxia


What is Verbal dyspraxia?

Verbal dyspraxia (dis-prax-ee-a) is a speech disorder. A person with verbal dyspraxia has difficulty placing muscles in the correct position to produce speech. The muscles have not been damaged. The messages from the brain that tell the muscles what to do have been affected.

Dyspraxia does not affect a person's ability to understand.

What are the symptoms?

The person usually knows what they want to say, but has difficulty saying it. The wrong sounds may come out or sometimes nothing at all. This can be frustrating for the speaker as one word may come out correctly one minute and incorrectly the next.

A person with dyspraxia may:

  • not be able to speak or gesture at all
  • sometimes be able to produce 'automatic' speech, such as counting, common phrases or greetings such as "fine, thanks" or "OK" or swear words
  • make searching movements with their mouth and tongue, trying to find the right position for what they want to say
  • get stuck on a sound or word
  • have speech which sounds 'jumbled up' and be difficult to understand
  • have pauses and hesitations in their speech, and
  • it may take a lot of effort for them to try and speak.

What causes verbal dyspraxia?

Verbal dyspraxia is often caused by a stroke or another injury to the brain. It occasionally occurs alone, but is often associated with other speech and language disorders.

Does anything make it worse?

A person with verbal dyspraxia may find it more difficult to speak when they are tired or feel pressured to speak. It is important to give the person time to speak and don't force them into trying to speak if they don't want to.

What treatment is available?

Speech therapy. A Speech and Language Therapist can assess your speech and provide practical suggestions for managing your speech. Your therapist may also recommend exercises.

Is there anything others can do?

Practical suggestions others can do:

  • Respect you as an equal - your intelligence is not affected by your speech.
  • Allow you time to get your message across.
  • Face you when talking to you.
  • Sit/stand close to you when talking together.
  • Try to talk in a quiet environment.
  • Ask questions that require shorter responses.
  • Ask specific questions to help identify the subject being spoken about e.g. "Are you telling me about...?", "Is it something you need?"
  • Be honest and say when the person's speech is difficult to understand.

To return to the Speech and Language Therapy home page click here.

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