The Ineffectiveness of Checklists in Diagnosing Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)

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By Margaret Fish, MS, CCC-SLP, author of Here’s How to Treat Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Second Edition

Sorting through evaluation findings for young children with complex speech sound disorders can be confusing and challenging. As SLPs we strive to complete thorough evaluations and make sense of our evaluation findings to achieve an accurate diagnosis; however, many of the characteristics of CAS overlap with other types of speech sound disorders. Certain key characteristics from a CAS checklist such as inconsistency, atypical prosody, groping, or vowel errors may raise red flags for a diagnosis of CAS, but these characteristics alone should not predetermine the diagnosis until a thorough analysis of the child’s speech productions is completed.

Following are case studies of two children recently seen for consultations. Both children had an incoming diagnosis of CAS, but only one child was given a definitive diagnosis of CAS at the conclusion of the consultation. The other child demonstrated a number of characteristics commonly associated with CAS, but after careful examination of the child’s speech, the underlying nature of the challenges was not consistent with the core impairment of CAS that ASHA (2007) describes as the “planning and/or programming (of) spatiotemporal parameters of movement sequences.”

Case Study 1.

Mark, age 3 years, 7 months, had recently received a diagnosis of CAS by a diagnostic team at a local hospital. The diagnosis was based primarily on the following factors:

  • Reduced speech intelligibility (judged to be 50% intelligible)
  • A nearly complete repertoire of consonants and vowels
  • Inconsistent productions of the same word
  • Occasional vowel errors
  • Atypical speech prosody

Because of Mark’s limited speech intelligibility, inconsistency, vowel errors, and prosody differences, it was understandable how a diagnosis of CAS was made, as these characteristics often are associated with a positive diagnosis of CAS. Indeed, the use of a checklist of CAS characteristics alone could lead a clinician to conclude that Mark had CAS.

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