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DISORDERS ASSOCIATED WITH ARTICULATION & PHONOLOGICAL DELAYS

What is an Articulation Disorder? 

An articulation disorder is a deficiency in the ability to produce sounds motorically or difficulty in having two articulators (teeth, tongue, lips) meet to produce the sounds in isolation, syllables, sentences, paragraphs and/or in conversational speech which is not consistent with chronological age.   

Articulation errors are considered motor-based errors.  An articulation difficulty may be defined as difficulty in producing a single or a few sounds with no pattern or  rule. 

What Causes an Articulation Disorder? 

There is not always an identifiable cause for articulation disorders in children.  Sometimes children just do not learn how to pronounce sounds correctly and/or understand the rules of speech on their own. They require more support and instruction. There may also be more tangible factors that play a role, such as developmental disorders, hearing loss, neurological disorders, genetic syndromes or illnesses. These issues can all affect a child’s speech development and contribute to articulation disorders. Articulation disorder testing can help to determine the cause if one is identifiable and can provide more information on specific articulation issues. Even if the exact cause is unknown, treatment can still be beneficial. 

Examples of articulation errors:  

  • Substitution - one or more sounds are substituted, which may result in loss of phonemic contrast (e.g., "thing" for "sing" and "wabbit" for "rabbit") 

  • Omission - certain sounds are omitted or deleted (e.g., "cu" for "cup" and "nack" for "snack") 

  • Addition - one or more extra sounds are added or inserted into a word (e.g., "puhlay" for "play") 

  • Distortion - sounds are altered or changed (e.g., a lateral lisp with "s")  

 

Not all sound substitutions and omissions are speech errors. It's vital to take dialect and accent into consideration.   

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Treatment for Articulation Disorder 

There are numerous ways that speech-language pathologists can assist children in overcoming articulation disorders. Speech therapy and treatment can be targeted to address more specific skills as well as more generalized communication. Therapy may focus on the motor skills involved in forming and vocalizing certain sounds, on learning speech rules, and on applying these concepts across different contexts. As children progress, they can build on what they have learned to expand their mastery of sounds. 

SFS Therapies provides comprehensive testing to identify articulation disorders and create an individualized treatment plan for addressing these issues. Children may receive speech therapy along with other treatments or therapies to support them in improving their communication abilities. With proper intervention, children can overcome articulation disorders and learn to enunciate and pronounce words and sounds more clearly. 

What is a Phonological Disorder? 

The term phonological disorder refer to a child’s difficulty with understanding the sound system and speech rules of our language that other children seem to acquire naturally. These disorders are broader in scope and more complex than simple articulation disorders.   

For example, sounds produced in the back of the mouth (like /k/ and /g/) are difficult for young children to say.  Many children compensate for this difficulty  by creating a rule (phonological process) that says “If a sound is produced in the back of the mouth, I will change it to be produced in the front of the mouth (where it’s easier).”  Therefore, /k/ becomes /t/ and /g/ becomes /d/.  This is why it’s common for young children to say “titty tat” instead of “kitty cat”. 

Keep in mind that these rules are out of the control of the child.  They are not choosing to drop all consonants off the ends of words or change sounds around.  Their brain is doing it for them and they are probably not even aware that they are doing it.  With phonological processes, there are consistent error patterns in connected speech that may include:  

  • Cluster Reduction (pot for spot) 

  • Reduplication (wawa for water) 

  • Weak Syllable Deletion (nana for banana) 

  • Final Consonant Deletion (ca for cat) 

  • Velar Fronting (/t/ for /k/ and /d/ for /g/) - "tat for cat" or "dood for good" 

  • Stopping (replacing long sounds like /s/ with short sounds like /t/ - "tee for see" 

  • Stopping of glides (darn for yarn) 

  • Vowel Error Patterns (Cawt for cat) 

Typically, the more phonological processes a child uses in speech, the more unintelligible their conversational speech will be. While certain processes are expected for younger children as they are beginning to learn speech rules, older children are not expected to present with these error patterns. 

 

Treatment for Phonological Disorders 

 

A child is considered to have a phonological disorder when he/she continues to use developmentally normal phonological processes past the point of when most comparative peers stop using said phonological processes. To treat this problem, the clinician's job is to re-train the child’s brain to overwrite the rule that he/she has created.  Here are the steps for fixing this: 

  • Listening:  First, the child must hear the difference between his/her errors and the correct production. 

  • Speaking Words: Next, the child must say the words without using the phonological process. 

  • Speaking Sentences: Once the child can say the specific words correctly, he/she must use those words in sentences. 

  • Structured Conversation: Now, the child must practice not using the targeted phonological process during longer speaking situations, such as with answering a question and/or telling about a past event. 

  • Carry-Over: Once you’ve done all of that you can work on helping the child to remember to not use the process in everyday speech

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