December 14, 2022
Motor planning for speech is our ability to plan and coordinate movement of our tongue and lips, and to manage air flow so that we can speak clearly. This is similar to learning to play the piano or dance. At first when we are learning to play the piano or dance, we have to think about what we are doing, and we probably won't do it smoothly or proficiently. However, once that motor planning is a part of our body, we don't have to think about what we are doing, we simply play the piano or dance. Speech is the same way. Once we have lots of practice moving our lips and tongue to talk, we just simply talk without thinking about how we are talking.
Children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech have difficulty with motor planning for speech, and are extremely difficult to understand. They often are very frustrated and use gesture, vocalizations and the rest of their body to help them get their point across. They may also be a very quiet toddler, with minimal babbling.
Typically developing toddlers who are just learning to talk are also learning about speech motor planning. We often refer to their reduced intelligibility as"baby talk." However, typically developing children's speech becomes more and more clear as they age. By age 3, they are often 75% intelligible to unfamiliar listeners. By age 4, they should be very easy to understand. Children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech often remain very unclear after age 4, without intervention.
Children who have a very difficult time saying words clearly often need to begin by practicing very simple motor plans. A very simple motor plan does not require much work. For example, to say "Oh!!" we practically just open our mouth. Some motor plans for words can be quite complex, such as "basketball."We have to use our lips, our tongue, and we have to move our tongue from the front of our mouth to the back, and then back to the front again.
Here's how speech therapy can help with motor planning:
1. Speech therapy provides a child with lots of repetition practicing new motor plans at a level that the child is able to master.
2. As your child masters new motor plans, your child will begin to feel more confident and develop more and more words that are intelligible to others.