Phonological processes are speech sound error patterns that children use to simplify speech. Unlike articulation errors, which occur when a child has difficulty producing one or two specific speech sounds, phonological processes are error patterns that can occur across groups of sounds. For example, in the pattern called ‘fronting’, all “back sounds” (sounds made in the back of the mouth like k and g) may become “front sounds” (sounds made in the front of the mouth like t and d). Similarly, with the process called ‘stopping’, many “long sounds” (such as fricatives like s, z, and f) may become “short sounds” (such as stops like p, t, and d.
It is normal and expected for very young children to simplify speech sounds until a certain point. In fact, many of these patterns are considered typical until around age 3. However, as communication develops, these errors are expected to fade away, and the majority of phonological patterns should disappear altogether by age 5 years. A child may have a phonological disorder if:
Signs of a Phonological Disorder:
The table below provides information regarding some of the most commonly occurring phonological patterns. The age of elimination indicates the typical age by which the process should fade away.
One of the most commonly treated areas within our scope of practice as Speech-Language Pathologists is speech sound disorders. When a child has a speech sound disorder, they may have trouble saying certain sounds and words past the expected age, ultimately making it harder for others to understand them.
Research suggests that 2.3% to 24.6% of school-aged children may have speech delay or speech sound disorder. In a class of 25 students, that could be anywhere from one student per class, all the way up to 6 students per class! Even though speech sound disorders are highly common, many don’t realize that the term itself encompasses a variety of specific diagnoses. Articulation disorders, phonological disorders, and childhood apraxia of speech are three distinct types of speech sound disorders, and approach to treatment for each disorder can vary significantly.