What is apraxia? Chris Kamara opens up about condition affecting his speech

Taking to Twitter, he later posted that he’d been suffering from speech apraxia alongside an existing thyroid issue.

Appearing on Good Morning Britain, the ex-sportsman hailed the response he’d got from friends and family, saying he was receiving treatment from a speech therapist in order to resolve the issue.

Describing the response to his post, he said it was “incredible”, and added: “Today is a good day so today I think I am fine. I don’t know how I sound but it seems as if I am okay.”

Kamara revealed that some people had wondered whether he was drunk following his on-screen appearance, and he added: “When I put out the message after Soccer Saturday I never in a million years expected that response. But everyone has been so brilliant. So kind.

“People have got in touch who I haven’t spoke to for 30, 40 years, to wish me well. So can I thank everybody for that.”

Speaking this week, he revealed that he feels like the diagnosis has left him feeling “as though there was someone else in control of his voice box”.

But, what is apraxia? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is apraxia?

Apraxia of speech, which is also known as acquired apraxia of speech, verbal apraxia, or childhood apraxia, is a speech-sound disorder, which results in the sufferer having trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently.

Apraxia of speech is a neurological condition that impacts the brain pathways involved in planning the sequence of movements involved in producing speech.

The brain knows what is wants to say, but it cannot properly plan and sequence the required speech and sound movements.

It is not caused by weakness or paralysis of the speech muscles, and its severity ranges from person to person. It can be mild, just causing trouble with one or two speech sounds, or, severe, where the sufferer can’t communicate effectively by speaking and may need help with an alternative communication method.

What are the types and causes of apraxia of speech?

  • Acquired AOS – This form of AOS can affect someone at any age, but most typically occurs in adults. It’s caused by damage to parts of the brain involving speech and involves the loss or impairment of existing speech abilities. It can be caused by stroke, head injury, tumour, or other illnesses affecting the brain.
  • Childhood AOS – Childhood AOS is present from birth, and is also known as developmental apraxia of speech, developmental verbal apraxia, or articulatory apraxia. The causes of childhood AOS are not well known, and imaging and other studies have not been able to find evidence of brain damage or differences in brain structure in children with AOS. They often have family members with a history of a communication disorder, or a learning disability. It also appears to affect boys more than girls.

What are the symptoms of apraxia of speech?

  • Distorting sounds – AOS may cause people to have difficulty pronouncing words correctly with sounds, especially vowels, becoming distorted. Longer or more complex words are often harder to say, and sound substitutions might also occur when AOS is accompanied by aphasia.
  • Inconsistent errors in speech – Someone with AOS might have problems saying a word correctly, but then have trouble repeating it, or may be able to say a particular sound one day, and have issues saying it again the next day.
  • Groping for sounds – People with AOS often appear to be groping for sounds, or for the right word. They may try saying a word several times before they say it correctly.
  • Errors in tone, stress, or rhythm of speech – Another common factor is the incorrect use of prosody, which means the rhythm and inflection of speech that we use to help express meaning. Someone who has trouble with prosody might use equal stress, segment syllables in a word, or omit syllables in words or phrases, alternatively pausing inappropriately while speaking.

What has Chris Kamara said about his apraxia of speech?

After revealing his diagnosis in March, Kamara took a temporary break from Soccer Saturday, before deciding in April that the 2021-22 season would be his last.

Despite leaving Sky Sports, Kamara continues to work in broadcasting, and the 64-year-old opened up about the challenges brought on by his condition.

“It feels like someone has taken over my voice box,” Kamara told The Diary of a CEO podcast.

“The voice that used to come out would come out at 300 miles an hour, you’ve seen me on the results and Soccer Saturday, motormouth, talking and not even waiting for a breath, just keep going and going.

“Now, when I hear myself or see myself on TV, it’s someone else. It’s really strange.

“Some days, the message from the brain to the mouth are really slow and makes it difficult, or some days the words come out different than what you’re trying to say and that’s even weirder. So that’s been hard to accept, and [is] still hard to accept.”

Kamara said he believed that the time was right to leave Sky Sports after a “great innings”, but that his apraxia had left him with anxiety about delivering his broadcast.

Speaking to the podcast’s host, Steven Bartlett, he said: “I have to say, I was going to quit everything – literally every single bit of TV – at the end of last season,” he said. “It was an acceptance, really, because what I said to my wife is, if I wasn’t a broadcaster, it wouldn’t matter, would it? She said ‘yeah’, so I said, now’s the time. I’ve had a great time.

“I spoke to my agent, Simon, said I’m getting out of all this and he said, ‘Yeah, you can, I’ll leave it up to you’. So I thought, ‘That’s it, I’ve done my time’. I’d like to thank all the people who have been persistent and said a 25 per cent Kammy is still better than some people.”

In March, when he revealed his prognosis, he told Ben Shephard on Good Morning Britain: “It is typical, Ben. Because it is a neurological problem, we don’t know. The experts don’t know.

“The brain is such a complex part of you that it is hard to say whether it is the thyroid that has brought this on. Will it get better in time?

“I am trying to use parts of my brain now that allow me to speak fluently, so I am with a speech therapist, I am with another therapist who is trying his best. So it is quite incredible, really.

“The singing is not a problem, you can sing along all day long at the normal pace of a song, but talking when the apraxia kicks in makes it really difficult.

“Like I said, I am not after sympathy. There are so many people out there worse off than me.

“But I have come out and said it now, so it is there and, hopefully, people will understand when I sound a little bit not like myself.”

Kamara previously underwent a brain scan to check if he was developing dementia after suffering from what he described as “brain fog”.

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