Is the Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol effective for children with CAS? (Spoiler: We don’t know)

Sometimes the popularity of a treatment program doesn’t match the evidence supporting it. Enter the Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol (K-SLP) for treating children with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS; aka: Kaufman cards, Kaufman kit) which Gomez et al. point out “is a treatment program that, anecdotally, is widely used by clinicians despite the lack of theory to support the approach.”

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To test the K-SLP, the authors conducted a small experimental study. Two children with CAS, ages 4 and 5, received 3 weeks of treatment, with four 1-hour sessions per week. As prescribed by the K-SLP, treatment focused on successive word approximations. The K-SLP was also modified slightly; the children had to match the correct prosody for the words, and the authors incorporated principles of motor learning.

After treatment, the authors compared children’s performance on treated words to untreated control words. This is where it gets tricky—children’s baseline performance on control words was not consistent, likely because inconsistent productions are a hallmark of CAS. Both children’s average percent phonemes correct (PPC) increased, but only one child showed generalization by improving production of similar but untreated words. Both children’s PPC went down after treatment was withdrawn, but had not returned to baseline levels at 3 months post-treatment.

So, does the K-SLP work? This study is too small and preliminary to answer that question, and it’s the first published experimental study to ask it. It also doesn’t tell us how the K-SLP compares to other treatments, or which children it might work best for. In the meantime, there are other treatments for CAS with more evidence.

Gomez, M., McCabe, P., Jakielski, K., & Purcell, A. (2018). Treating childhood apraxia of speech with the Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol: A Phase I pilot study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, [Advance online publication], 1-13. doi: 10.1044/2018_LSHSS-17-0100.