What Is Apraxia?


Apraxia is a neurological disorder that affects someone’s ability to perform voluntary movements even though they have the physical capability to do so. It arises from damage to areas of the brain responsible for controlling voluntary movements. 

Different types of apraxia are associated with the loss of ability to carry out different types of voluntary movement and difficulties with speech.1 Occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy are used in combination to treat apraxia. They aim to improve a person's functional capabilities and therefore, their quality of life.

Causes of apraxia

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, apraxia is caused by damage to specific areas of the brain that are responsible for movement coordination and senses, such as taste, hearing and touch. 

The damage to the brain that results in apraxia can be caused by head injury or diseases that affect the brain. These include:

  • Stroke (disrupts the flow of blood to the brain)
  • Traumatic brain injury (apraxia may be caused depending on the location of the brain injury)
  • Brain tumours (may be within or pressing on areas related to motor control)
  • Degenerative neurological disorders (e.g. Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease)1
  • Brain infections (e.g. encephalitis or meningitis)

As older adults have a higher incidence rate of degenerative neurological disease, they also have a higher likelihood of apraxia.

If apraxia is caused by a stroke, the symptoms of apraxia may improve as the brain swelling goes down.

In rare cases, apraxia may also be caused by genetics. It can occur as part of other disorders, for example, autism and epilepsy amongst others. In addition, a mutation in a gene called FOXP2 may also cause a type of apraxia called childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). 

Signs and symptoms of apraxia

The signs and symptoms of apraxia can vary depending on the specific region of the brain affected and the severity of the damage. Despite this, there are some common signs and symptoms associated with the condition. These include:2

  • Having trouble with voluntary movements despite a physical capability to perform them. This symptom may be worse when asked to perform an action on command
  • Inaccurate/inconsistent movement which may seem mis-timed or mis-ordered
  • Difficulty with complex tasks. Tasks that have multiple steps can be a struggle. Examples of these include brushing teeth and getting dressed
  • Impaired speech and language affects those with apraxia of speech. People with apraxia of speech may find it hard to articulate words, create the correct sounds and time what they are saying
  • Issues with non-verbal communication which can include gestures such as waving
  • Frustration when unable to complete actions

Management and treatment for apraxia

Apraxia is usually managed using a multidisciplinary approach. A team is employed to treat the individual’s specific needs based on the effects and severity of the apraxia. The common components for the management and treatment of apraxia include:3,4

  • Speech therapy is particularly useful for managing apraxia of speech4
  • Occupational therapy is used to improve the ability to perform daily tasks 
  • Physical therapy helps individuals improve coordination, strength, balance and mobility using targeted exercises3
  • Augmentative and alternative communication devices can be used when speech is severely affected by apraxia. Examples include communication boards and electronic devices
  • Environmental modifications and adaptive devices may help people with apraxia go about day-to-day activities more easily
  • Home practice and support is crucial for people with apraxia. This can be from family members, friends or caregivers
  • Supportive counselling may help you to deal with the emotional and psychological toll living with apraxia can have. Counselling helps with support, education and coping strategies to manage the emotional impact of the condition

Diagnosis of apraxia

Apraxia is diagnosed by healthcare professionals. Different types of healthcare professionals are involved in an apraxia diagnosis to give a comprehensive evaluation. 

Initially, your doctor will ask about your symptoms, their onset and progression, and your medical history. They may then perform a physical examination to assess your neurological functioning. This neurological evaluation will assess your motor skills and coordination.5 

If your speech is affected, a speech-language assessment will usually be performed by a speech-language pathologist.6 Additional standardised tests may be conducted to determine whether or not you have apraxia.

In some cases, imaging tests may be used to identify possible underlying causes of apraxia. These imaging tests could be an MRI scan or a CT scan.

Healthcare professionals will also want to rule out any other possible causes of your symptoms. Therefore, they may test for other conditions that could lead to motor difficulty. 


Can apraxia be prevented?

As apraxia is caused by damage to the brain, and many of the causes of this damage are not preventable, apraxia cannot be prevented entirely. However, steps you can take include practising safety measures (to reduce risk of injury and accidents), maintain a healthy lifestyle, and managing underlying health conditions that could potentially lead to apraxia. 

How common is apraxia?

Apraxia is generally considered to be a rare health condition, but its prevalence in the general population is unclear. However, studies have found apraxia to affect 90% of dementia patients, 30%-80% of stroke patients, 19-45% of those with traumatic brain injuries, and 25% of multiple sclerosis patients.7 

Who is at risk of apraxia?

Apraxia may develop in individuals of all ages. However, the risk of apraxia can increase with age due to an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease and strokes.

Additionally, those who have had strokes or traumatic brain injuries are at an increased risk of apraxia, as well as those with neurodegenerative disease, a genetic predisposition or brain tumours/lesions. 

When should I see a doctor?

If you or your child is experiencing symptoms indicative of apraxia, you should contact your doctor. 


To summarise, apraxia is a neurological condition that can affect a person’s voluntary movements and speech. It is caused by damage to the brain, and therefore it is difficult to prevent. The symptoms vary by case, however, issues with movement and/or speech are the most common. If you suspect you or your child may have apraxia, you should contact a healthcare professional. 


  1. Zadikoff C, Lang A. Apraxia in movement disorders. Brain [Internet]. 2005 Jul [cited 2023 May 26];128(7):1480–97. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/128/7/1480/307101 
  2. Goldenberg G. Chapter 16 Apraxia. In: Handbook of Clinical Neurology [Internet]. Elsevier; 2008 [cited 2023 May 26]. p. 323–38. (Neuropsychology and Behavioral Neurology; vol. 88). Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S007297520788016X 
  3. Smania N, Girardi F, Domenicali C, Lora E, Aglioti S. The rehabilitation of limb apraxia: A study in left-brain–damaged patients. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation [Internet]. 2000 Apr 1 [cited 2023 May 26];81(4):379–88. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003999300597664 
  4. 3. Gomez M, McCabe P, Purcell A. A survey of the clinical management of childhood apraxia of speech in the United States and Canada. Journal of Communication Disorders [Internet]. 2022 Mar 1 [cited 2023 May 26];96:106193. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021992422000120 
  5. 4. Dovern A, Fink GR, Weiss PH. Diagnosis and treatment of upper limb apraxia. J Neurol [Internet]. 2012 Jul 1 [cited 2023 May 26];259(7):1269–83. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00415-011-6336-y 
  6. Davis BL, Jakielski KJ, Marquardt TP. Developmental apraxia of speech: Determiners of differential diagnosis. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics [Internet]. 1998 Jan [cited 2023 May 26];12(1):25–45. Available from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/02699209808985211 
  7. Gowda SN, Kolton Schneider L. Apraxia. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Jun 4]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK585110/
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Sheena Patel

Bachelor of Science, Genetics BSc, University of Leeds, England

Sheena is a scientific writer with over two years’ experience working in drug development. She has recently relocated to Stockholm where she will begin Stockholm University’s Masters programme in Public Health Sciences: Societal and individual perspectives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818