Abstracted by Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, from “Syndrome of Allergy, Apraxia, and Malabsorption: Characterization of a Neurodevelopmental Phenotype that Responds to Omega 3 and Vitamin E Supplementation” in the July/August 2009 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. Posted August 4, 2010.
Apraxia of speech is a speech disorder in which a person has trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently. Also known as verbal apraxia or dyspraxia, apraxia of speech is not caused by muscle weakness of the face, tongue or lips, but is centered in the processing centers of the brain (1).
The two types of speech apraxia are acquired (affecting persons of any age, but is frequently seen after strokes) and developmental (being present at birth). Developmental apraxia seems to affect boys more than girls and is a common symptom in children diagnosed with ADHD and autism. With rates of ADHD and autism continuing to rise at alarming rates (one hospital study found a quadrupling of diagnosis between 1989 and 2000 (2)), verbal apraxia rates are almost certain to increase as well.
Symptoms of children with verbal apraxia include not cooing as an infant, beginning to speak late, struggling to combine sounds, and even having problems eating (2). A 2007 report from Nationwide Children’s Hospital has found that apraxia is continuing to increase and may affect as many as 1 in 100 children (3). Now a new study (4) has suggested that vitamin E and omega-3 fats may help with speech.
In the study, 187 children between the ages of 2 and 15 and diagnosed with verbal apraxia received vitamin E (800 IU/day) and omega-3 fats (560 mg DHA + 1390 mg EPA/day) while having blood drawn to measure for digestion (absorption issues as well as digestive inflammation). Their parents reported on their child’s behavior, including speech, imitation, and eye contact. The researchers did not state the study duration.
Remarkably 181 families (97%) reported “dramatic improvements” in multiple areas of behavior that included speech, imitation, coordination, eye contact, behavior, sensory issues, and digestive symptoms. Five families saw no improvement and one family reported a worsening of symptoms that caused them to stop supplementation with one week.
In addition to these improvements in behavior, the blood tests showed a large number of the children also suffered from food allergies, especially gluten. Specifically, researchers found that 70% of the children had a gluten allergy compared to only 12% of the rest of the general population. Finally, 83% of families reported digestive problems in their children before the study, suggesting that allergies, digestive issues, apraxia and behavioral issues may all be interrelated and possibly improved with vitamin E and omeg-3 fat supplementation.
For the researchers, “As a benign intervention, it may be worthwhile for providers to consider a trial of [vitamin E and omega-3 fats] supplementation as a complementary approach to verbal apraxia in addition to traditional speech and occupational therapy .” Although this study seems to show significant benefit, it must be kept in mind that the results were self-reported and not placebo controlled. Further research is warranted.
- “Apraxia of Speech” – National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders” – http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/apraxia.html
- Mandell DS. Trends in Diagnosis Rates for Autism and ADHD at Hospital Discharge in the Context of Other Psychiatric Diagnoses. Psychiatr Serv 2005; 56:56-62.
- “Childhood Apraxia Of Speech Cases On The Rise” – October 2007 – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071029133114.htm
- Morris CR. Syndrome of Allergy, Apraxia, and Malabsorption: Characterization of a Neurodevelopmental Phenotype that Responds to Omega 3 and Vitamin E Supplementation. Altern Ther Health Med. 2009;15(4):34-43.