Apraxia and Sign Language

Why Sign Language is Beneficial for Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)

Sign language has shown to be beneficial for children diagnosed with CAS.  But why? Why is sign language working for children with CAS?

First it’s important to really understand what apraxia is and what it is not. CAS is a motor planning disorder. CAS is the common term for Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia (DVD) and Developmental Apraxia of Speech (DAS).  What does that mean?  Children with Motor Planning disorder have difficulties with volitional movements.  Children want to communicate; they want to say what’s on their mind, but it can be quite difficult to plan those motor movements in their speech mechanism (e.g. tongue, lips, etc.). When parents ask their child, “Say dad-da” – the child wants to say “dad-da” but it just can’t come out.

What CAS is not?

–       It’s not an articulation disorder

–       It’s not a phonological disorder

–       It’s not a behavioral disorder or a child acting out

Therefore, it’s important to stress the motor planning component of CAS because I truly believe sign language can help children with CAS because of the motor planning skills that are used in sign language!

Motor planning in layman’s terms:

  1. Think about brushing your teeth. Think about which hand you use. Think about how you brush your teeth. You don’t typically change the hand you use to brush your teeth. You don’t typically change the set of teeth you brush first (top/bottom).  You don’t necessarily have to look in the mirror and concentrate while brushing your teeth.
  2. Think about texting on the old fashion flip phones. Think about how quick you got at texting and perhaps you didn’t even have to look at the keyboard!

THESE are SUCESSSES we have on a DAILY basis because of our ability to MOTOR PLAN!

Again, children with CAS struggle planning the speech movements to communicate effectively. So what can Sign Language do for children with CAS?

  1. Reduce Frustration
  2. Provide Symbolic Communication (the signs mean something)
  3. Increase Expressive Communication
  4. Positive and Successful Communication Attempts
  5. Better Control of Rate of Speech for Both Adults and Children (when signing individuals tend to slow down to allow for simultaneous verbal and sign communication)
  6. Provides Visual Cues

What sign language will not do?

–       Sign Language will not limit their speech attempts

–       Sign Language will not increase their difficulties verbalizing.

The first fear is that a speech therapist is going to put speech therapy (training, drills, etc.) on the back burner and focus on sign language. It’s important to note – sign language is an awesome supplement!

Check out other resources that express the positive change ASL can have in your life




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