Dyspraxia is difficulty in carrying out planned movements. A person with dyspraxia may be able to carry out an automatic movement such as yawning, but if the same person is asked to open their mouth, they may not be able to do it.
Verbal dyspraxia is thought to be caused by a problem in the part of the brain responsible for planning the muscle movement patterns needed for speech. The muscles are not weak but they will not work properly when the person tries to speak. Verbal dyspraxia in adults is usually due to damage or illness affecting the brain, and it often occurs alongside other communication difficulties such as aphasia or dysarthria.
Verbal dyspraxia is extremely frustrating because the person usually knows what they want to say but when they try to say it, something completely different or nothing at all comes out. To add to their frustration, the person may be able to say a word correctly one minute but the next time they try and say it, it comes out all wrong.
Frequently the person with verbal dyspraxia will have difficulties with conversational speech but may be good at ‘automatic’ speech tasks such as counting, swearing, repeating rhymes, greetings and farewells.
Dyspraxia can lead to difficulties with:
- Producing the right speech sounds in the right order
- Producing the right rhythm and rate for speech
- Imitating movements with the mouth, such as sticking out the tongue
- Groping when trying to make sounds or words, sometimes needing to repeat them several times
- Consistency in speech – sometimes the same word will come out in different ways.