What Is Apraxia? - Definition & Treatment

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that there are more than eight different kinds of apraxia? In this lesson, you'll learn about the different types of apraxia as well as treatment options. Then you can test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition and Causes

Bob is a six-year-old who has difficulty communicating. Bob's parents first noticed his problem when he did not coo during infancy. Bob did not speak until he was two, and he struggled saying words with multiple syllables. Bob also has trouble moving his mouth and tongue. Concerned, Bob's parents took him to a speech pathologist. After an initial assessment, Bob was diagnosed with apraxia.

Apraxia is a type of neurological disorder in which people have difficulty getting their muscles to move how they want them to. People with apraxia may be willing to perform the movements and physically able to do so, but they cannot get their muscles to carry out the act. Apraxia is caused by brain damage or impairment. Head injuries, stroke, traumatic brain injury, infection, and brain tumors can all cause the brain damage that leads to apraxia. Diseases that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia, and Huntington's disease also cause apraxia.

Types and Symptoms

There are several different types of apraxia. Let's briefly look at the description and symptoms of each one.

Most Common Types of Apraxia

  • Apraxia of speech is a condition in which a person has trouble carrying out the movements necessary to make speech. In the example in the introduction, Bob has apraxia of speech.

  • Orofacial apraxia is a condition in which a person cannot perform certain facial movements. For example, a person may have trouble winking or sticking out the tongue.

  • Individuals with ideomotor apraxia are unable to copy movements or create signals. Symptoms of ideomotor apraxia include difficulty following commands that require copying movements (i.e., when playing Simon Says) and trouble imitating hand movements.

Other Types of Apraxia

  • People with constructional apraxia are unable to copy or 'construct,' drawings or make two- or three-dimensional constructions. Symptoms include omitting elements from drawings, oversimplifying drawings, and drawing distorted images.

  • Those with conceptual apraxia cannot use or choose tools correctly. That is, people lack the 'concept' of what the tools are used for and how to use them appropriately. One example includes attempting to use a hammer to screw something instead of a screwdriver. Another example includes selecting a wrench to complete a task that requires a drill.

  • Ideational apraxia is the inability to coordinate activities that require multiple movements. Symptoms include trouble carrying out multi-step tasks, such as taking a bath or getting dressed, and trouble organizing steps in sequential order.

  • People with oculomotor apraxia have trouble moving their eyes. For example, they may not be able to move their eyes horizontally.

  • Another form of apraxia, called gait apraxia, is when a person has difficulty moving the lower limbs. The term gait refers to the manner in which you walk. Consequently, symptoms include trouble walking and falling down a lot.

  • Gait apraxia is similar to limb-kinetic apraxia, which is characterized by difficulty making precise movements with hands, fingers, arms, or legs. In other words, it refers to difficulty moving your limbs. Symptoms include trouble handling small items, such as coins or screws, and trouble holding items in your arms. Limb-kinetic apraxia is the least common form of apraxia.

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