Apraxia vs. Aphasia

Instructor: Jesse Richter

Jesse holds two masters, a doctorate and has 15 years of academic experience in areas of education, linguistics, business and science across five continents.

Need a quick introduction or refresher on apraxia and aphasia? This lesson examines definitions of the terms as well as the similarities and differences between the two conditions and is intended to educate teachers so they can better understand and guide students who experience the syndromes.

Apraxia vs. Aphasia: What You Need to Know

Many teachers work with students who are diagnosed with apraxia and/or aphasia. These students require careful guidance as they learn, especially in language arts and if the student is an English Language Learner (ELL). Let us start by looking at definitions of the terms and their implications.

Apraxia: Definition and Implications

Apraxia, also referred to as apraxia of speech, dyspraxia, or verbal apraxia is a brain disease or damage disorder whereby an individual finds it challenging to accomplish the intentional muscular movements necessary to produce speech, such as those of the tongue, jaw, nose, mouth, throat, lips and face. For example, you may have a student who struggles to pronounce the 'th' sound such as in think, throw and them.

Apraxia has the following common implications:

  • Inaccurate pronunciation, enunciation and inflection during speech
  • Inaccurate tone, pitch, speed, syllabic stress or rhythm during speech
  • Incorrect or inaccurate sound patterns such as with syllabic stress and verbal syntax
  • Complex language may be more difficult to produce than simple language
  • Longer words, especially those with advanced syllabic structures, may be significantly more difficult to produce
  • Individuals may be able to correctly produce certain language structures, but not consistently (may vary from one time to the next)

We commonly see students in this situation that might have trouble producing the many different vocal sounds of the English letter combination ough, such as in 'through', 'rough' and 'plough'. Another example is when students compare words in the same family with differing syllabic structures such as photo versus photographic.

Aphasia: Definition and Implications

Aphasia is a brain disease or damage disorder whereby the individual is challenged to verbalize or comprehend language. For example, you may have a student who has difficulty understanding analogies such as 'I feel like a fish out of water'.

Aphasia has the following common implications:

  • Difficulty understanding the meanings of words, expressions and/or concepts
  • Difficulty in producing the correct or appropriate verbalizations according to a specific context
  • Difficulty in writing ability and reading comprehension
  • Literal interpretation of sarcastic, metaphorical, idiomatic, or figurative expressions
  • Limited ability to process abstract concepts, especially at younger ages
  • Limited ability to understand cause and effect, permanency, and long-term planning

One example of this is when we use abstract language, such as in the phrase 'a piece of cake.' What does this mean? Literally, this idiom does not mean anything. We must consider the literal meaning of such terms when we are communicating with someone who has aphasia. Another example is when we see students struggling to use appropriate phrases such as Good evening versus Good night. These terms are similar, but they do have different subtle meanings.

Similarities between Apraxia and Aphasia

Both conditions:

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