What is Childhood Apraxia of Speech?

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a speech disorder that appears in early childhood but can continue into adulthood. Children with CAS have problems saying sounds, syllables and words. Although a child with CAS knows what they want to say, their brain struggles to correctly move their lips, jaw and tongue in order to speak clearly and be understood.

Learning to speak is similar to learning to ride a bike: at first you must concentrate on all the steps involved but with practice this process becomes automatic. While most children memorise the steps involved in speaking, children with CAS must continually re-learn how to say a word or phrase by asking themselves:

  • Which sounds do I need?
  • What order do the sounds come in?
  • How do I move my lips, tongue etc to make those sounds?
  • Which sounds or words do I stress?

Children with CAS can become frustrated that they cannot communicate clearly or be understood. Families can also find it hard to understand why speech is so difficult for their child when for others it is often automatic or easy.

We don’t know exactly how many children have CAS, but we know it is rare. Only one or two children in 1000 seeing a speech specialist have it. CAS is sometimes called Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia, Apraxia of Speech or Verbal Dyspraxia.

Professional content written by Associate Professor Angela Morgan, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute University of Melbourne Australia