Kids Health Info

Verbal dyspraxia

  • Dyspraxia is a neurological (brain) disorder in which messages from the brain to the muscles are disrupted. It can affect many different functions such as writing, dressing, speaking, eating or skipping. Dyspraxia is usually referred to as a motor planning and execution disorder

    Different types of dyspraxia


    Dyspraxia can develop through damage to the brain from an accident, stroke or illness. Dyspraxia may also develop in young children when there is no brain injury or no obvious cause. 

    Oral dyspraxia

    Children with oral dyspraxia usually have no problems with automatic oral movements such as licking an ice cream, but they have great difficulty with doing oral movements on demand, for example, poking out their tongue when you ask them to.

    Verbal dyspraxia

    Verbal dyspraxia is also a neurological disorder and affects the production of speech. There is no actual damage to the nerves or muscles used in speech, but the child cannot voluntarily coordinate their muscles to produce the right speech sounds or words. Verbal dyspraxia can develop after an injury to the brain.  A speech pathologist can diagnose and help treat verbal dyspraxia.

    Symptoms of verbal dyspraxia

    These depend on the severity of the problem. For instance a child may:

    • Not be able to speak or gesture at all
    • Get stuck on a sound or words and say it over and over again when trying to say something different. This is called perseveration.
    • Have difficulty making sounds or repeating sequences of sounds or words
    • Have difficulty sustaining normal intonation patterns
    • Have a very limited, automatic vocabulary
    • Be slower speaking, use more pauses and fewer words
    • Make searching movements with their lips and tongue when trying to say a sound.

    How it is diagnosed

    A speech pathologist can assess whether a child has verbal dyspraxia or is possibly having other difficulties with their speech and language development.


    There are several ways to help with dyspraxia depending on the severity of the disorder. Therapy involves specific exercises designed by your speech pathologist. For example therapy may focus on producing different consonants or vowels, or words and phrases of various lengths and complexities. For children with more severe dyspraxia, the speech pathologist may consider alternative ways of communicating.

    Key points to remember

    • Verbal dyspraxia is a neurological disorder affecting the production of speech.  The child cannot voluntarily coordinate their muscle to produce speech sounds and words.
    • A speech pathologist can assess whether a child has verbal dyspraxia.
    • If you have any concerns about your child's speech and language please consult a speech pathologist.  You may need a referral from your family doctor or you can see someone privately.

    For more information


    Developed by the RCH Paediatric Rehabilitation Service.  Based on the Verbal dyspraxia factsheet from the Brain Injury Service, at Westmead Children's Hospital (with permission). First published Nov 2006. November 2010.

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