Alalia: symptoms, causes and treatment
A review of the characteristics of this speech disorder that manifests in childhood.
Have you ever heard of alalia? It is a language disorder that affects speech. Specifically, alalia involves the partial or total inability to communicate through oral expression.
People who suffer from it usually develop good abilities to express their ideas in writing, as it is often their only source of communication.
Alalia: what is it?
Etymologically the word "Alaila" comes from the Greek, and means "dumbness", but it is important to keep in mind that the fact that suffering from alalia does not imply other alterations at the intellectual level or other senses such as hearing.. That is why people who suffer from it usually have good written communication skills.
Here we will see what alalia consists of, the characteristics of this disorder, the causes that can produce it, and finally the treatments for alalia.
There are different parameters that can be indicative that a person suffers or may suffer from alalia.
People with alalia are called alaliatics and are usually children of young ages. The first sign that a person suffers from alalia is if that child does not follow a developmental trend for his or her age group..
At around 12 months of age, the first words usually begin to be spoken. If shortly after 12 months of age the child does not speak, but does not gesture goodbye or point to objects or people, there is nothing to worry about.
Between 15 and 18 months, there is a critical point of speech delay if they cannot say the word "mama" or "dada," if they do not interact when greeted or dismissed with a "hello" or "bye-bye," or if they use numerous gestures during speech. A factor of normal language development to consider would be to have a vocabulary of between 2 and 5 words at 12 months and about 15 words at 18 months..
On the other hand, another sign of speech delay is the inability to produce words and phrases spontaneously between 2 and 4 years of age, as well as the inability to follow simple directions and commands, as well as when they can correctly make connections between words. Finally, another sign of speech delay would be the inability to create simple sentences of 2 or 3 words, in the range of these ages.
It is important to keep in mind that there are characteristics that also prevail in other pathologies and therefore it is important not to err in the diagnosis. Allic individuals present a picture similar to that of mental retardation. Nevertheless, alalic patients relate well, orient themselves easily and understand mimicry and gestures.. It should be noted that any language pathology may be present in people with normal intelligence but in people with special educational needs.
Language delay, impairment, even loss of language may be caused by a physical break in the mouth area when it is still forming, or just after birth. As a result, the child may be slow, the child may be slow in shaping the mouth and tongue to form words..
However, there are several causes, including non-physical ones, that can lead to alalia:
- Trauma in the prenatal period (before birth)
- Perinatal trauma (immediately before or after birth)
- Pathological prolongation of labor time.
- Difficult deliveries with mechanical assistance
- Hearing loss
- Viral and infectious diseases
- Brain trauma in the post-natal period (after birth).
Each of these causes together or separately can lead to the appearance of a lesion in the central language areas, which would result in the development of awhich would lead to the appearance of alalia.
Types of alalia
There are two types of alalia. Depending on its origin, it is classified as follows:
1. motor alalia
Motor alalia is characterized by characterized by an involvement of the frontal parietal area, thusthus disrupting its functions. This leads to coordination and balance problems.
This results in difficulties in understanding words. So eventually alalics substitute words by similarity of sounds, as they find it difficult to repeat complex words. If left untreated, this can lead to stuttering.
In milder cases of motor alalia, communication in short sentences is common. In more severe forms, there is usually only onomatopoeia in oral communication, accompanied by facial expressions and gestures.
2. Sensory alalia
Sensory alalia is somewhat more complex and more severe. Patients who suffer from it do not perceive and understand speech well, so this eventually leads to the inability to speak..
In these cases a specific area of the cerebral cortex is affected, and at this point patients do not speak because words are incomprehensible to them.
In summary, sensory alalia sufferers are unable to associate words with objects, and generally only communicate with facial expressions and gestures. In many cases, these patients are misdiagnosed as deaf.It is therefore essential to have an unequivocal diagnosis.
The treatment and therapies required depend on the degree of alalia, the cause and the severity. In principle, speech therapy is the most effective and common form of intervention..
On the other hand, there are more specific therapies for children suffering from alalia due to physical malformations. One of these therapies is called myofunctional therapy (MFT), which focuses on the correction of facial Muscle imbalance. This help is often provided by speech-language pathologists.
Other appropriate routines include reading to children on a regular basis, asking questions in simple and clear language, and suggesting the use of specific food textures to exercise and strengthen the jaw muscles while developing new jaw movements during chewing.
Another appropriate guideline is to read to patients affected by alaliaand also to ask questions in a simple and clear language. In addition, it is important to suggest the use and introduction of different food textures to exercise and strengthen the jaw muscles while developing new jaw movements during chewing. Finally, another less common technique is to use music as speech therapy to promote and facilitate speech and language development.
Finally, it should be noted that the therapy must take into account the family nucleus and context.Therefore, there must be a communication and a joint work with the patient's closest environment, and thus favor positively in the growth of oral language and vocabulary. In any case, the timely intervention of the speech therapist will make the rate of success and improvement of the patient is higher.
- American Psychiatric Association (2016). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Editorial médica Panamericana.
- Calavia-Traín, J. (2014). State of the art: speech disorders in the early years. UNIR.
- Chernousova, L. (2008). The conception about severe disorders in communication. LUZ, Educating from science, 7(1).
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)