Infant apraxia, a little understood neurological condition with a milder form known as dyspraxia, generally refers to neurological impairment of the muscles and motor skills of a child. Children who have apraxia are incapable of making certain motor movements despite the fact that most of their muscles will appear normal. There are numerous forms of apraxia that are distinct and affect specific muscle movements in the body. An example of a form of infant apraxia is orofacial apraxia where an infant is incapable of moving certain facial muscles, such as eye muscles or the tongue muscles, which would aid in otherwise normal neonatal behaviors like winking and licking the lips. The most reliable and earliest indicators of infant apraxia are generally via failure to meet early developmental milestones, as they relate to speech and sound production.
However, apraxia is not solely related to orofacial difficulties. Although the speech apraxia conditions are most common, another major form of apraxia is whereby a child is incapable of coordinating the arms and leg muscles to make certain movements such as wave or even walk. Speech apraxia occurs when the child cannot move the mouth or tongue muscles to say something even when he/she wants to speak. This inability means that the affected party cannot physically move the said muscles to make a word.
Treatment of Infant Apraxia
There is no documented medical evidence showing that the treatment methods for infant apraxia are effective. This perhaps is the reason why speech therapy is used as the primary mode in the treatment of infant apraxia. It is required that children frequent speech therapy sessions to as many times as five times weekly in order for the therapy to be effective. However, the frequency of the therapy sessions can be reduced if it is found out that the child is making some improvements. Another physician’s recommendation is that children with infant apraxia attend individual therapy sessions as opposed to group sessions. This allows the child more time to make some progress towards recovery under the shortest time possible. The primary goal of speech therapy sessions is to assist children with infant apraxia practice to say certain words and phrases. It is through such frequent practice that a child with apraxia can learn to say words previously impossible to pronounce. Speech-language pathologists are required during speech therapy sessions to touch a child’s face as he or she makes certain sounds. This action helps in the otherwise difficult subjectively felt coordination of facial muscles during speech for childhood sufferers of apraxia.
Home Speech Practice
Despite having children with infant apraxia take professional speech therapy, home based speech practice is also a recommended treatment option for apraxia. Home-based speech practice allows the parents and the rest of the family members to be actively involved in the treatment process for infant apraxia. This is because, some children are more comfortable when around people they actually know as opposed to complete strangers. The speech pathologist may provide some words that a child needs to practice while at home and the progress is assessed during the subsequent speech therapy session.
Alternative Communication Procedures
Children with severe infant apraxia cannot communicate using word of mouth. Under such circumstances, one of the most appropriate way of teaching the child on how to communicate is through the introduction of alternative communication strategies. Under this intervention, the child is not necessarily required to speak but rather, can use sign language or even drawings to pass a message. For example, if the child is hungry, he or she can point towards his or her mouth or simply rub the stomach. This action should inform the family that the child needs food. Alternative communication methods have over the years seen an improvement whereby a child can simply learn basic pronunciation through sign language. As progress is made in terms of speech communication, the sign language and drawings are no longer required and a child can progress to advanced recovery levels.
When it comes to dealing with infant apraxia, there is no single treatment method that effectively addresses the medical challenge. Effective treatment thus requires a combination of therapies including speech, movement, and developmental therapy for effective treatment.