Types of Speech Disorders
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.
An articulation disorder occurs when a child has difficulty producing specific sounds correctly in conversational speech, past the expected age. For example, a child with difficulty pronouncing the /r/ sound might say “wing” instead of “ring”, or a child with difficulty pronouncing “th” might say “teef” instead of “teeth”. You may also hear “articulation disorder” referred to as a “lisp” if it affects sounds like /s, z/. Oftentimes a child with an articulation disorder may have just one or two sounds in error, or may demonstrate sound distortions resulting in a lisp or “slushy” speech quality.
While articulation disorders refer to specific sound errors and distortions, phonological disorders refer to error patterns that 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. Check out our resource all about phonological processes for more information.
Also falling under the umbrella of speech sound disorders is childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). Apraxia is a neurological motor speech disorder, meaning it is a movement-based speech deficit that results in difficulty saying sounds, syllables, and words. While apraxia does NOT cause muscle weakness, it does cause deficits in coordination. A child with apraxia may know exactly what he/she wants to say, but apraxia makes it difficult for his brain to plan, direct, coordinate, and execute the muscle movements needed to speak that message clearly. Some signs of apraxia are effortful “groping”/”grasping” movements when trying to speak, limited consonant and vowel sounds produced correctly, and inconsistent speech errors.
The plan for therapy for speech sound disorders depends heavily on which type of speech sound disorder your child has. Also, the type of speech sound disorder a child has may change and simplify throughout the course of treatment. A thorough speech evaluation containing standardized and informal measures can help determine the type of disorder and best course of treatment.
If you have more questions or would like to get help for your child’s speech, book a free consultation now!
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