Kids Health Info

Verbal dyspraxia

  • Verbal dyspraxia affects the ability of a child to produce speech. Verbal dyspraxia can also be referred to as dyspraxia, developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD), childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) or developmental apraxia of speech.

    Verbal dyspraxia is a speech disorder that can start to show when a child is learning to speak. A child with verbal dyspraxia 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 verbal dyspraxia 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.

    There is no obvious cause for verbal dyspraxia. 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.  

    Signs and symptoms of verbal dyspraxia 

    The signs and symptoms depend on the severity of the problem. If your child has verbal dyspraxia, they may: 

    • have difficulty making sounds or repeating sequences of sounds or words 
    • make different mistakes when they say the same word 
    • have difficulty with normal intonational patterns (e.g. speaking in a monotone, placing equal stress on each syllable in words)
    • have a very limited vocabulary 
    • speak more slowly than other children their age, and use more pauses and fewer words 
    • make searching movements with their lips and tongue when trying to say a sound. 

    When to see a doctor

    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 also visit a speech pathologist privately. A speech pathologist can assess whether your child has verbal dyspraxia or if there is another cause for their difficulties with speech and language development. 

    Treatment for verbal dyspraxia

    There are several ways to help treat verbal dyspraxia, with specific treatments available from speech therapists 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. 

    For children with more severe dyspraxia, the speech pathologist may consider alternative ways of communicating, such as sign language or specialised communication tools like computers or books to point to.

    Key points to remember 

    • A child with verbal dyspraxia cannot voluntarily coordinate their muscles to produce speech, but there is no damage to the nerves or muscles used in speech. 
    • They may have difficulty making normal speech sounds, a limited vocabulary or a delay in language development.
    • If you have any concerns about your child's speech and language, see your Maternal and Child Health Nurse, GP or paediatrician, or consult a speech pathologist. 
    •  A speech pathologist can diagnose and treat verbal dyspraxia. Many children's speech will improve with specific treatment.

    For more information 

    Common questions our doctors are asked

    Will my child grow out of verbal dyspraxia?

    Children with verbal dyspraxia 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 verbal dyspraxia. Are these conditions linked? 

    Many children with language difficulties may become frustrated because it's challenging for them to communicate. This then results in abnormal behaviours from their frustration. The combination of abnormal 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 verbal dyspraxia and verbal apraxia? I’ve come across both terms when trying to find out more about my child’s condition.

    There is no difference. Both developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD) and childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) 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 May 2018. 

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au

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Disclaimer
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.