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.