Teachers who teach special needs populations receive lots of training regarding the learning difficulties and language disorders they may encounter with their students. This information is necessary not only for special educators, but also for general educators. In fact, it is good knowledge for anyone who works with students in any capacity. Two common language disorders are apraxia and aphasia. This article will provide a description of the causes, symptoms and treatments for these two disorders.
Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder. Children with CAS have difficulty saying sounds, syllables, and words. This is not because of muscle weakness or paralysis. The brain has problems sending the signals to move the body parts needed for speech. The child knows what he or she wants to say, but the brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words.
Symptoms in young children include not cooing or “baby-talking,” speaking their first words late or with missing sounds, and having trouble eating. Symptoms in older children include making inconsistent sound errors, understanding language much better than he or she can talk, sounding choppy or monotonous, stressing the wrong syllable or word.
Children with CAS often have difficulty learning to read, spell, and write. They may have trouble with other fine motor skills. They may also have hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity in their mouths.
Research shows the children with CAS have more success when they receive frequent and intensive treatment. Children seen alone for treatment tend to do better than children seen in groups. As the child improves, they may need treatment less often, and group therapy may be a better alternative. Treatment includes training on the planning and sequencing of speech, and may also include sign language training.
Aphasia results from damage to the parts of the brain that contain language, and can cause difficulty with reading, writing, speaking and listening.
Aphasia can be mild or severe. People with mild aphasia can often carry on normal conversations, but may have trouble understanding long or complex communications, and may sometimes forget or have trouble finding the words they need to express themselves. People with severe aphasia may barely speak and may be unable to understand anything that is said them.
The two aspects of aphasia are “expressive” and “receptive.” The expressive aspect pertains to producing language. Characteristics include omitting words, mixing up words, speaking in short phrases, making up words, and stringing together real and nonsense words. Receptive aphasia pertains to understanding language. People who suffer receptive aphasia require extra time to interpret spoken messages, have trouble following fast speech, and misinterpret subtleties of language (e.g. taking figurative language literally). Most people with aphasia exhibit both expressive and receptive symptoms.
Treatment for aphasia includes drills and exercises such as naming objects or answering questions about stories, learning to express ideas through gestures or writing instead of speaking, and group therapy sessions to practice conversation skills.