An Articulation Disorder occurs when a child has difficulty producing individual sounds that make up words. Sounds are classified by the place in which they are formed (interdental, palatal, etc) and the manner in which they are produced (stopping the airflow, etc). The acquisition of speech sounds typically follows a developmental order and an articulation disorder is identified when a child is using these sounds in error past the expected age for mastery.
The majority of articulation errors fall in to 1 of 4 categories:
- Substitutions: (most common) This is where a child may substitute a sound for another sound. For example “wabbit” for “rabbit” where “w” is substituted for “r”.
- Omissions: This occurs when a child drops (omits) a sound from a word. For example “at” for “hat” or “bu” for “bug”.
- Distortions: This error occurs when a child distorts a sound usually caused by deficiant oral motor skills. For example “thoup” for “soup”.
- Additions: (least common) This atypical speech error consists of a child adding a sound that shouldn’t be there. For example, “doga” for “dog”
Ages for which sounds are expected to be mastered:
- /p,b,m,h,w, vowels/ are expected to be mastered by 2.5 to 3 years of age.
- /d,t,k,g,f,n,ng,y/ are expected to be mastered by 4 years of age.
- /s,z,l,v,sh/ are expected to be mastered by 6 years of age.
- /j,ch,th/ are expected to be mastered by 7 years of age.
- /r,zh/ are expected to be mastered by 8 years of age.
- There are 24 consonants and 20 vowels in the English language
- The most commonly mispronounced sounds are “s,l,r”
- Boys are more likely than girls to have difficulty pronouncing sounds.
- Typically a child would be using all sounds correctly by 7 years old.
When to seek a speech evaluation:
- anytime that your child is getting frustrated at not being able to be understood.
- a 2 year old that is using mainly vowels and very limited consonants.
- a 3 year old that is difficult to understand
- a child at any age that is having difficulty moving his jaw or tongue
- a school-age child that has many sound errors
How can I help my child pronounce sounds correctly at home?
- Refrain from over-correcting or using negative feed back such as “you said it WRONG”
- Model positively, emphasizing the sounds that are in error
- Do not allow friends or relatives to “mock” your child.
- Point out the letters and sounds in words that are difficult for your child while reading to them
- Children often find it fun to give sounds names “snake sound” for /s/ or “panting dog” for /h/ (for additional ideas on sound names that are often used in therapy, click here)
- Get down to your childs level and let them see your mouth movements as you are saying the sounds/words
Another type of Speech Sound Disorder is PHONOLOGICAL PROCESSING DISORDER:
A Phonological Processing Disorder occurs when a child has difficulty producing entire classes of speech sounds vs. individual sound errors. Even in normal development children begin to use sounds by simplifying them. As they mature, their speech matures and they no longer need to simplify sounds. A child who is using these simplifications beyond the age expected is said to have a phonological processing disorder. Children that are diagnosed with this type of a disorder are at a greater risk for later reading and learning disabilities. Early identification and treatment is key.
Types of Phonological Processing Disorders and age of mastery:
- Fronting: occurs when a back sound (k,g) is produced in the front of the mouth (t,d) ex. “tat” for “cat”, “doose” for “goose”, “win” for “wing”, “sue” for “shoe” (typically disappears by 3 years, 6 months)
- Backing: occurs when a front sound (t,d,) is produced in the back of the mouth (k,g). This is less common and typically requires intervention.
- Stopping: occurs when airflow sounds (s,f) are stopped ex. “doo” for “shoe”, “dat” for “that” (typically disappears by 3 yrs for /s,f/ and up to 5 yrs for /th/)
- Final Consonant deletion: occurs when the final consonant sounds are dropped ex. “boa” for “boat”, “fee” for “feet” (typically disappears by 3 years, 3 months)
- Initial Consonant deletion: occurs when the initial consonants are dropped ex. “eep” for “beep”, “ig” for “pig”. This is less common and typically requires intervention.
- Cluster reduction: occurs when a cluster of sounds are reduced ex. “peak” for “speak”, “cape” for “scrape” (typcially disappears by 4 yrs)
- Metathesis: occurs when sound sequence is reversed ex. “aks” for “ask”, “pasketti” for “spaghetti”. This is less common and typically requires intervention.
- Gliding: occurs when liquid sounds (l,r) are substituted with glides (w,y) ex. “weg” for “leg”, “yeyo” for “yellow” (Typically disappears by 5 yrs)
- Weak syllable deletion: occurs when weak syllables are deleted ex. “efant” for “elephant”, “tefone” for “telephone” (Typically disappears by 4 yrs)
When to seek a speech evaluation:
- anytime your child is getting frustrated at not being able to be understood
- If your child is continuing to simplify sounds past the age in which this simplification typically disappears
- If your child uses “backing, initial consonant deletion or metathesis” type simplifications OFTEN as this can be a sign of other problems
- This type of disorder tends to run in families
- Traditional articulation therapy does not benefit a child that has a phonological processing disorder.
- Can occur in combination with other processes (ex. da for cat where both fronting of /k/ and final consonant deletion occurs)
- Can co-occur with language difficulties such as immature grammar/syntax or word retrieval difficulties.
- Has been linked to intermittent hearing loss due to ear infections, colds.
- There is typically no problems with the oral structure (lips, tongue, jaw move appropriately).
How can I help my child at home?