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Apraxia and Sensory Issues: What's the Connection?


Apraxia is a condition that is common among children with sensory processing disorder. Praxis, or motor planning, is the planning and execution of a series of movements. Apraxia or dyspraxia of speech means there’s a glitch in turning your thought into spoken words: You can’t quite coordinate the movements of your lips, tongue, facial muscles, and breath to get out what you’re trying to say. This is also called oral dyspraxia. Global dyspraxia is poor motor planning of other movements, such as tying your shoe, putting on your socks, and so on.

Kids with poor body awareness due to sensory issues often have motor planning problems as well. If you can’t feel the food in your mouth, you stuff too much in and then how do you coordinate swallowing it? Better to avoid that mushy food that confuses you… See how it works?

Motor planning is a form of organization. Many kids with SPD have organizational issues, not just organizing body movements with motor planning but also organizing thoughts and ideas, language, time, and possessions. This is true whether or not they just have sensory issues or they also have autism or ADHD! They’re the kids that tidy their room by placing the candy wrapper neatly on the bookshelf and the books under the bed where they fit nicely. They’re the kids who can’t quite grasp time and are always running late because they can’t judge how long a process takes. They may seem clumsy because they're not coordinating their movements well. The sensory signals in the brain are unreliable and don't integrate well.

Occupational therapy that uses SI therapy techniques is a common way of addressing apraxia. An OT might have a child with sensory issues and apraxia walk through an obstacle course, or hops over a toy three times in a row, using her body to cue him to keep his feet together as he hops. When a child has apraxia of speech, a cueing therapy such as PROMPT is often used to treat it. Essentially, the speech language pathologist (SLP) treating the child with apraxia will use her hands and fingers to cue that child's face, lips, mouth, etc., to create a particular sound. You can learn more in the following video:

Does your child have motor planning issues that affect his speech or his everyday activities. Apraxia-kids.org is a great resource.

Want to learn more about how to help your child who has sensory issues and apraxia? Get a copy of the award-winning book Raising a Sensory Smart Child! It’s chock full of practical tips as well as information that can help you understand and advocate for your sensory child.

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