When children are first referred to a speech-language pathologist, it is typically because they are not easily understood by their parents, close family members or teachers.
It’s important to realize that there are many reasons why a child isn’t talking or why their intelligibility (what is understood by the listener) is poor.
Speech sound disorders can be broken down into phonological disorders and articulation disorders. It is very important that speech sound disorders be diagnosed appropriately, as treatment for phonological and articulation disorders differ.
Articulation disorders happen when a child has difficulty producing a specific sound (or sounds) and are fixed by addressing the sound(s) in error. For example, a child may put their tongue in the wrong spot when creating the /r/ sound, which makes the /r/ sound different than it should.
You can target specific sounds with articulation therapy:
Phonological disorders are more complex, as they are patterns in a child’s speech used to simplify speech sound production. An example of this is when a child deletes the last sound off of a word. They might say /ca/ for /cat/ or /si/ for /sit/. The majority of children with highly unintelligible speech present with a phonological disorder, as their speech is characterized by repeating patterns of incorrect productions.
|Fronting||replacement of a sound typically produced in the back of the oral cavity with a front sound||“tar” for “car”, “tandy” for “candy”|
|Backing||replacement of a sound typically produced in the front of the oral cavity with a back sound||“gog” for “dog”|
|Final Consonant Deletion||omission/deleting of final consonant||“cu” for “cup”|
|Cluster Reduction||simplification of a cluster (two letter sound) into single sound||“poon” for “spoon”|
|Weak syllable deletion||deletion of weak syllable in word||“tefone” for “telephone”|
|Gliding||sound /r/ and /l/ replaced by /w/ and “j”||“wadder” for “ladder”|
|Stopping||replacement of sounds||“too” for “shoe”|
|Reduplication||repetition of syllables||“wawa” for “water”|
|Prevocalic Voicing||replacement of voiceless consonant with a voiced consonant||“vone” for “phone”|
|Initial Consonant Deletion||deletion of initial consonant||“ose” for “nose”|
|Epenthesis||addition of “uh” sound in between two consonants||“puh-lane” for “plane”|
It’s important to know that children’s speech goes through normal articulation and phonological errors. By 2 years of age, a child’s speech should be 50% intelligible to an unfamiliar listener, by 3 years of age 75% intelligible to an unfamiliar listener and by 4 years of age 100% intelligible to an unfamiliar listener (ASHA).
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