Ways to Help Students with Childhood Apraxia of Speech in the Classroom

May is Better Speech & Hearing Month and Apraxia Awareness Month. Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) is a pediatric motor speech disorder in which children have difficulty with the planning and production of speech. While the focus for children with CAS is often on the production of sounds, studies have shown that children with previous spoken language difficulties may be at a higher risk for literacy difficulties because of the connection between spoken and written language.

Incorporating Phonological Awareness (PA) skills into therapy may help to combat this and build your students’ literacy skills. But let’s face it- many of our students have many goals that need targeting or we have large groups that can make it difficult to find activities where each student is getting what they need. Adding another thing to your list of things to do as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) can feel overwhelming. But incorporating PA skills into your speech and language sessions doesn’t have to be!

Here are some easy ways to incorporate PA this month to better support students in your school with a possible history of CAS.

Rhyme Time

Rhyming is one of the foundational steps in PA. It is a critical early skill that will help students as they make their way through their school years and beyond. Rhyming can also be an easy skill to work into your already planned speech and language sessions. Here are 3 ways to work rhyming into your sessions:

  1. Set aside time to rhyme: Set a timer for a couple of minutes at the start or end of your session and have your student(s) come up with words that rhyme with a “word of the day”. You can have the students put a mini eraser on a chart or a point on the board for each rhyming word they can think of within the time limit. See if they can think of more rhyming words next session.

  2. Rhyme the speech targets: If your student or another student in the group is working on a specific phoneme, you can use their targets as your rhyming word for your other students to practice their PA skills. While one student is working on her articulation of CVC words like “bat”, another is practicing his rhyming and saying “cat”.

  3. Find rhymes in language tasks: While reading a listening comprehension story to a student, you can have your other student listen for rhyming words they hear in the story. You can also give them a specific word to listen for rhymes while you read.


Alliteration Always

Alliteration is another skill that is key to literacy and language. Adding alliteration to your speech and language sessions can be a subtle way to instill PA skills for your students. Here are 3 quick ways to work alliteration into your sessions:

  1. Headline of the day: Choose a letter and have the students come up with words that start with that sound. Write down each student’s words or phrases onto pieces of paper and move them around to create a silly “headline” for the day.

  2. What else: After a student practices their target word, ask them “what else” starts with the same sound as the word they just said. In groups, you can have students go around and keep adding something to the list. You can even choose the child’s target sound to get even more productions of the phoneme.

  3. Name game: Have the students come up with an adjective or animal that starts with the same sound as their name. They can even make little name tags with their alliteration name.


Sounds Like…

Lastly, blending sounds into words or breaking apart words into their individual sounds is another building block skill for reading and writing. These can also be incorporated quickly and easily into your already planned speech and language sessions. You can spend a set amount of time targeting these skills or you can choose one or two words a session to highlight phoneme blending or segmenting. Here are 3 engaging ways to slip extra phoneme practice into your sessions:

  1. Break it up: Use scrabble tiles or letter magnets to spell out simple 3-4 letter words and then have your student break the words apart by separating the tiles, or have them sound out the word and slide the tiles closer together.

  2. How many sounds: Use multiple of the same object (crayons, toy cars, train cars, dinosaurs,etc.) and have each represent a sound or a syllable. Talk about the student’s target words in terms of how many “cars” there are (how many syllables or how many sounds).

  3. Fidget with it: Use your student’s pop-it or fidget toy to work on counting out the sounds in words. Give them a word and tell them to pop one bubble for each sound they hear.

I hope that these ideas are helpful, not only during Apraxia Awareness Month but in the future when you come across a student with a history of CAS or another speech disorder struggling with reading.

These Phonological Awareness skills are things that you can incorporate into the lessons that you already have planned. Even just adding in a few minutes of the above activities can make a world of difference for a child with reading difficulties.


Happy Better Speech & Hearing Month!

Author: Noelle Scolieri, M.S. CF-SLP


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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. The content is based on the author's personal experiences, research, and opinions. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified professional or expert before making any decisions or taking action based on the information provided in this blog.

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