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Apraxia and Other Language Disorders


Apraxia is characterized by loss of the ability to execute or carry out learned purposeful movements. It is a disorder of motor planning, and is caused by damage to specific areas of the cerebrum. There are several different types of apraxia, however at Jacob's Ladder, we most often program for students with Verbal Apraxia of Speech. The cause of Verbal Apraxia is most often due to a lesion in the left hemisphere, and is typically in the parietal and frontal lobe.

Jacob's Ladder evaluators often see students and clients with a plethora of diagnoses simultaneously. A child who is nonverbal and has an Autism diagnosis, will also have an Apraxia diagnosis. The child with PDD-NOS will often have an Apraxia diagnosis as well. We approach each of these given situations from a brain-based perspective, knowing that the brain is capable of tremendous growth and rewiring potential, if given the stimulation to do so. Our language programming is deep and comprehensive.

Our language program addresses the following 6 components for any student struggling with language production:

  1. Receptive Ability - We first ensure that the receptive ability of the student is strong. Expressive language will be only as stong as receptive.
  2. Processing of Tone and Frequencies of Sound - The auditory nerve is one of the most primitive nerves in the CNS. The healthy transmission of sound, signaling to the Auditory Cortex then clear processing in the language center, is vital to developing language production. Jacob's Ladder utilizes intensive forms of sound therapy in order to stimulate and create new capacity in each of the brain regions.
  3. Auditory Sequential Processing - Most of our students enter Jacob's Ladder with a significant deficit in the ability to sequentially process sequentially individual or complex bits of information. A primary focus of our work is strengthening this ability. This score correlates with a child's age, as a child at age one will be able to process one bit of information, whereas a child who is age 5 should be able to process five bits of information. Appropriate language development is greatly dependent on the sequential processing ability being intact.
  4. Oral Motor Function - This refers to the ability to plan and execute neutral motor movements, such as the correct oral movements to locate the correct articulators within the weaknesses of overall motor planning and coordination. Jacob's Ladder provides individualized and intensive oral motor stimulation paired with verbal prompt flooding—the opportunity and expectation of language approximation all day long.
  5. Hemisphere Dominance and Interhemisphereic Communication - The language center resides in the left hemisphere for 95% of right handed individuals, and 75% of left handed individuals also hold the language center in the left hemisphere. Jacob's Ladder interventions address the entire system of receiving, processing, storing and utilizing information. When language output is the goal it is critical to address the interhemispheric communication and overall retrieval of information in order for expressive output to develop with fluency.
  6. Opportunity - When a child is minimally verbal, or nonverbal, many times the environment (home, school) does not hold strongly the expectation and opportunity for verbal output throughout the day. The theory of brain plasticity holds as a cornerstone "function determines structure". If the student is not "required" to create sound, and use previously mastered sounds the brain has inadequate opportunity to build new capacity for speech production. Opportunity for speech all day, every day is critical. Jacob's ladder has created a language with learning environment with the required intensity for success. That is why so many of our previously nonverbal children, leave completely verbal.

Jacob's Ladder is a school for apraxia located in Atlanta, GA.