In this section
Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) affects the ability of a child to produce speech. CAS can also be referred to as dyspraxia, developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD), or speech apraxia.
CAS is a speech disorder that can start to show when a child is learning to speak. There are a number of different reasons that a child may have difficulty learning to speak. CAS is a relatively rare disorder. A child with CAS has difficulty planning and coordinating their movement of muscles used (e.g. tongue, lips, jaw, palate) to produce the right speech sounds or words. However, there
is no actual damage to the child's nerves or muscles used in speech.
Children with CAS may have difficulty with the speed, accuracy and timing of movement sequences that are required to produce speech. This will often result in delays in speech development and others will likely have difficulty understanding the child's speech.
There is no obvious cause for CAS, although a genetic explanation accounts for about 30 per cent of cases. A speech pathologist can diagnose and help treat the condition. Many children's speech will improve with specific treatment.
There is another type of dyspraxia that is caused by brain injury, which is not addressed in this fact sheet. For information, see our fact sheet Brain injury – dyspraxia.
The signs and symptoms depend on the severity of the problem. If your child has CAS, they may:
If you are concerned about your child’s speech, talk to your Maternal and Child Health Care Nurse or GP, who may refer you to a speech pathologist. You can visit a speech pathologist privately or via your local community health service. A speech pathologist can assess whether your child has CAS or if there is
another cause for their difficulties with speech and language development.
There are several ways to help treat CAS, with specific treatments available from speech pathologists who are experienced in the condition. Therapy is often intensive and involves exercises specially designed for your child. For example, therapy may focus
on producing specific sounds, or words and phrases of various lengths and complexities. As CAS is a motor speech disorder affecting planning and programming of speech movements, it is important that treatment also focuses upon improving motor control and motor patterns.
For children with more severe CAS, the speech pathologist may also consider alternative ways of communicating, such as sign language or specialised communication tools like computers or books to point to.
Will my child grow out of CAS?
Children with CAS won’t simply outgrow the condition, but over time and with
regular (and often intensive) speech therapy, their speech is likely to improve.
The speech pathologist will approach the treatment to address the specific
motor planning difficulties that your child is experiencing.
My Maternal and Child Health Nurse suspected that my child
might be on the autism spectrum, but he has been diagnosed with developmental CAS. Are these conditions linked?
Many children with language difficulties may become
frustrated because it's difficult for them to communicate. This then results in challenging behaviours from their frustration. The combination of challenging behaviours and language delay occurs often in children on the autism
spectrum, which is why it can be difficult to tell them apart at first. You
should discuss these concerns with your child's paediatrician.
What’s the difference between CAS and verbal dyspraxia? I’ve come across both terms when trying to find out more about my
There is no difference. Both CAS and developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD) describe
difficulties with motor sequencing for clear speech production.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Paediatric Speech Pathology Service. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed July 2020.
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