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What is Apraxia?

Apraxia is a general term used to describe a wide range of medical conditions that are characterized by an inability to perform complex movements. When applied to a speech problem, the term usually refers to one of the following conditions:

  • Acquired apraxia of speech is a disorder that affects people of all ages, but it occurs most commonly in adults who have already developed language skills. It is also referred to as verbal apraxia and, in less-severe cases, as dyspraxia.

    The condition is usually caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control speech. It impairs existing speech abilities and can make it difficult or impossible for someone to say what he or she wants to say, correctly and consistently. Acquired apraxia of speech can result from a stroke, head injury, tumor, or an illness that affects the brain. It may also be accompanied by weakness or paralysis of the muscles used to produce speech.
  • Developmental apraxia of speech, also referred to as childhood apraxia of speech, is a congenital (present at birth) disorder of the nervous system that affects a child's ability to sequence and say sounds, syllables, and words. While this condition shares many of the symptoms of acquired apraxia, it doesn't involve muscle weakness or paralysis.

    In developmental apraxia, the brain fails to send the proper signals to the body parts that produce speech. Children with developmental apraxia may know what they want to say, but the words don't come out right. That's because the mouth and jaw muscles don't receive the right instructions from the brain.