Discover more about Verbal Dyspraxia

Discover more about Verbal Dyspraxia

What is Verbal Dyspraxia?

Apraxia or dyspraxia is a difficulty in motor planning, which sometimes can be seen in both gross and fine motor skills, as well as speech. Gross motor refers to difficulties in coordinating the whole body (e.g., bumping into things frequently, often falling over hurting themselves or others through being “clumsy” or unsteady). Fine motor movements refer to smaller, more precise movements (e.g., difficulties doing anything with their hands such as holding a spoon or pen).

Verbal dyspraxia

In Dyspraxia of Speech, instead of seeing a coordinated smooth way of talking, we see the articulators (tongue, lips, cheeks) and voice coordinating very smoothly. The voice can be very quiet or very loud. Muscle tone can be weaker at times. Speech sounds are very unintelligible, with a flat voice that can sound forced. It may be that the timings of verbalisation appear random and that children can say a certain word once and never again. This is often what we hear from parents.

It is interesting to note that many of our autistic clients are either non-speaking or are reluctant speakers. Sometimes they say a word once and then never again. Others say lots of words but the words are very hard to make out. Did you know that about 40% of autistic people have verbal dyspraxia? (Richard, 1997). Because the problem is one of motor planning, not of automatic motor execution, once a plan has become automatic, it is easier to get back to it and this is why we often see repetitive patterns that can be called ‘stims’ (Marge Blanc, 2004).

How can Speech and Language Therapy help?

Children with verbal dyspraxia can make great progress!

We provide frequent and appropriate speech movement opportunities and with time and the right support, children will move forward and begin to speak more fluently and with greater intelligibility. It is important to know this can take time.

We provide Oral Motor Therapy using a variety of approaches to practise breathing, vocalising on the outbreath, and sequencing our speech movements.

We design carefully tailored programmes focusing on words that have a lot of power (e.g., NO, GO, UP, IN, OUT, LET’S GO, STOP).

We offer shared enjoyment, and laughter. This helps a child find their voice. Other ways of finding our voices include singing or humming, or even yelling/shouting!

The most difficult phase of verbal dyspraxia is initiation, that is to start talking, to start producing a word. Frequent “automatic” repetition supports children with initiation because it removes the element of “thinking to start”. I often ask a child to repeat a word 5-10 times (with rewards at the end. A little game works well). You can see that with repetition the act of initiating is taken out of the equation as you are “on a roll “as it were.

Once a child starts to find their voice, we will be able to hear them talk lot… And if we give them credit and presume that what they are saying has meaning, we will find in time that their words become clearer and more intelligible. If we listen carefully, we can detect real words and phrases.

For more tips and support, please get in touch!

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Supporting children and families living with verbal dyspraxia

Supporting children and families living with verbal dyspraxia

“It’s brill-i-ant, it’s brill-ant, it’s brillnt”

Have you ever wondered why children may pronounce a word correctly one minute and in the next breath they struggle to say the same word? It’s equally as frustrating for you as it is for your child. The biggest question of all is WHY? Why does this happen and what causes it? Whilst there are many explanations. When it persists, it might be a condition called verbal dyspraxia.

What is verbal dyspraxia

Verbal dyspraxia is a neurological motor speech disorder that affects the coordination and planning of muscle movements that are needed for speech production. A child may have difficulty making the precise movements needed for speech, which may result in inconsistent and unintelligible speech. Children may also have trouble sequencing sounds and syllables, producing speech sounds accurately, and coordinating the movements of their articulators (e.g., lips, tongue, teeth, jaw). This can lead to a range of speech errors (including sound distortions, substitutions, omissions, and difficulty with rhythm and prosody).

We know that these speech errors, and not being able to get a message across, can be frustrating for children with speech difficulties. Can you imagine talking and limited people understanding you? It’s so tough on children and the people trying to communicate with them.

Creating a person-centred therapy plan is vital. This allows your child to stay motivated, as intervention is likely to be long term. This planning may include favourite words to use during their hobby or favourite activity, or person-centred goals such as ‘giving Alexa an instruction’.

Children with verbal dyspraxia can have several different ways of producing words, which often makes it trickier for them as there’s no consistent pattern to work with. So, we’ve put together some top tips to support their communication and make their (and your) lives a little easier in the process.

Ten ways to make communication easier for your child with verbal dyspraxia

  • Have a list of frequently used words and practise this set. Little and often is best!
  • Use cued articulation to support speech production (ask your Speech and Language Therapist for the gestures)
  • Give time and use active listening. This means showing interest and trying not to think about what is on your never ending ‘to do’ list
  • Reduce frustration in any way that you can. This might mean allowing your child to demonstrate using gestures rather than speech. You might also give top tips for other adults or children who communicate with your child when out and about
  • Talk about the structure of words with your child (i.e., there are two beats/syllables in this word)
  • Show the written form of the word to go alongside their production
  • Split down tasks, so that your child only has to respond to one question at a time, reducing their motor capacity
  • Recognise when your child is working well and when they may need support of an Alternative and Augmentative Communication device
  • Allow all environments to have the same training and equipment (i.e., at school, home, out and about)
  • Have regular periods in the day where your child can practise their specific words in different environments. This can be effective for children with verbal dyspraxia

Do you still have questions? Contact Sonja for support.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

Using AAC – Augmentative and Alternative Communication for Non-verbal and early Verbal Children

Using AAC – Augmentative and Alternative Communication for Non-verbal and early Verbal Children

Using a Core Vocabulary Board

Your Speech Therapist might have been advising you to introduce words to your child with the help of a CORE BOARD. What on earth is she talking about and why would we want to do this, I hear you think – and in fact this is what I get asked a lot, as I often do recommend using Core Boards.

Core boards belong to the category of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC ) and they can be really useful for:

  • Children or adults who cannot speak at all or who are very hard to understand.
  • Children who are slow to speak and have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, due to genetic conditions as Down Syndrome, Verbal dyspraxia, Autism or any other learning difficulty that means a child is slow to develop speech.

Here is what a Core board might look like, in fact this is one that I love to use. It is made by Beautiful Speech Life, there are a ton of similar boards out there for free. I have also made my own, you can check it out on my Instagram feed.

Using a Core Vocabulary Board

What is Core Vocabulary/ Core words?

Core vocabulary consists of the most common words used by children throughout a day. In 2003 Banajee and Dicarlo et al found that 50 % of pre-schoolers in their project used nine words consistently across their daily play and meal routines. These words are Core words and are typically the ones you can see on a board, like the one above.

How To Use It

Adults always first need to consistently model and show their child how to use a board. This is key! For example: Adult can point to “YOU” “WANT” ‘MORE” and then point to the cup of Water on the counter. Child could then reply either by shaking his/her head and/or pointing to “NOT” which also stands for “NO”. Then adult can point to “NOT” “MORE” and do an OK sign as well. Eventually Child can initiate a request and point to “I” “ WANT” “MORE” and then point to the cup on the counter.

This is not as cumbersome or limited as it first sounds or appears. Here’s why: As adult you can talk normally and, of course, many words you are using will not be on this board. But some will be, and you will be surprised how many you can find when you start using it. So you could say quite normally: Hey lovely (name of your child) would YOU LIKE some MORE water? The words in capital are on the board which you can point to as you speak normally. Basically, you are showing/saying to your child: “We can speak and these are the pictures we can use to help us; We call this TOTAL COMMUNICATION, as communication is so much more than just words! Great communication can be silent, where we use our facial expression, our smile, our eyes, our hand gestures, body movements and yes, of course, words. But when words fail us, these boards are so helpful.

This still does not answer your original question of: why would I want to do this, I want my child to talk!? You are a SPEECH Therapist, please help my child TALK, not point to pictures, that is not what I had in mind.

Let Me Explain

When speech is difficult for a child it doesn’t mean that there is nothing to talk about! Of course, we want all our children and all people to speak because it is the easiest and most effective way of communicating, no doubt! However, sometimes this is very hard for some children and whilst we are always working towards speech where possible, we also want to make sure that whilst figuring out how to speak, your child has a MEANS TO COMMUNICATE. Using a board like this might well be a temporary strategy but whilst you are using it and working on their speech you will find a reduction in tantrums and frustration as you child is able to express themselves more effectively.

Often we find that as soon as we offer a CORE VOCABULARY like the above sample a child who has had no or very few words suddenly blossoms and starts to point to new words on the board and starts to PRACTICE USING THESE WORDS!! Practice makes perfect, right? Yes it totally does! There is lots of evidence that tells us that using Core Vocabulary Boards ENHANCE AND SUPPORT SPEECH PRODUCTION AND NOT HINDER IT. Using a board like this will only ever be helpful to your child and will never make your child “lazy” – too lazy to speak? NO SUCH THING!

Here is what one of my parents says about the core board we use with her little boy:

“the board has been a game changer, my son is a visual learner so it really helps to have the board as he associates communication so much easier this way. We have incorporated his twin sister who models it’s use and have definitely seen improvement in speech through its support and his frustration around being unable to verbally communicate at times has definitely lessened”

K Connolly, Mother of Tom (aged 3.5 years).

Reading and hearing this makes me so happy!

In addition to general core board above I also sometimes use a Core Board that is specific to an activity, such as for example BLOWING BUBBLES. Below is an example of such a board, which you can use very nicely during a bubble blowing activity and sometimes it is a nice place to start for newcomers, this can be an easy introduction. You can download this and many similar boards on for free!

Using a Core Vocabulary Board

There is so much more to say about AAC and using Coreboards, visit my Instagram you can find a bit more information on how I use them.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.