Speech Sound Disorders – Articulation and Phonological Processes

4 June, 2024
How can you tell if your child has a speech sound disorder? Find out the signs of articulation and phonological disorders in this blog. Read on!
young girl in speech therapy session

As a parent, understanding your child’s speech and language development can be challenging, especially when you suspect that your child might have a speech sound disorder.

Most children make some mistakes as they learn to say new words. Children should learn to correctly produce different sounds within specific age ranges. A speech sound disorder occurs when mistakes continue past a certain age. Speech sound disorders include problems with speech articulation (making sounds) and phonological processes (sound patterns).

In this blog, we’ll help you identify possible signs, understand the causes and explore the available treatment options for speech sound disorders. Read on.

What are speech sound disorders?

female speech pathologist helping young boy

Speech sound disorders refer to various conditions where a child has difficulty correctly forming certain sounds, syllables or words. These language disorders can significantly affect a child’s ability to communicate, often leading to frustration and social challenges. Speech sound disorders typically fall into two categories: articulation disorders and phonological process disorders.

An articulation disorder refers to difficulties producing specific sounds. These challenges can involve the substitution, omission or distortion of sounds.

For instance, a child might pronounce “rabbit” as “wabbit.” They may also omit sounds, such as saying “nana” instead of “banana.” These errors can make it challenging for others to understand the child’s speech. This can cause frequent issues with conversational speech in their teen and adult years.

Phonological process disorders involve consistent patterns of sound errors. A child with this disorder can produce sounds correctly but often misuses them in words.

For instance, a child might replace all sounds made at the back of the mouth, like “k” and “g,” with those made at the front, like “t” and “d.” They might say “tup” instead of “cup,” or “das” instead of “gas.”

What causes speech sound disorders?

female speech pathologist helping young girl

Many speech sound disorders don’t have a clear cause. A child may not learn proper speech sound production or learn the rules of speech sounds on their own. These children may have a speech development problem, meaning they may not outgrow it by themselves. Children who do not develop these skills over time often need speech therapy to learn correct speech sounds.

Some speech sound errors can result from physical problems, such as:

Children who experience frequent ear infections when they are young are at risk for speech sound problems, especially if the infections are accompanied by hearing loss.

What are some signs of an articulation disorder?

child in speech therapy session

An articulation disorder involves problems making sounds. Sounds can be substituted, left off, added or changed. These errors may make it hard for people to understand your child. Your child may require articulation therapy if these errors continue past the expected age.

Common signs of an articulation disorder include:

It’s important to note that not all sound substitutions and omissions are indicative of speech errors. Some may be related to accent or dialect features, which are not considered speech sound disorders.

For example, speakers of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) may use a “d” sound for a “th” sound (e.g., “dis” for “this”). This is not a speech sound disorder but one of the phonological features of AAVE.

What are some signs of a phonological disorder?

female speech pathologist helping young boy
Identifying a phonological disorder involves observing patterns of sound errors. Signs may include:
While it is common for young children to leave sounds out of a word, it is not expected as the child gets older. If a child continues to demonstrate this type of cluster reduction when speaking, they may have a phonological process disorder.

How speech sound disorders are treated

speech pathologist in session with child

We recommend consulting a qualified speech pathologist if you have concerns about your child’s speech. A speech pathologist will conduct assessments to identify the nature of the speech disorder and create a treatment plan tailored to your child’s needs. This plan may include regular appointments and home exercises to improve your child’s speech.

At Therapies For Kids, our speech language pathologists will assess your child by:

After this assessment, your speech language pathologist will offer intervention to:

Speech therapy can significantly improve speech sound disorders. However, the outcome can vary depending on the nature of the disorder, the child’s age and the consistency of therapy provided.

FAQs about speech sound disorders

Some children may improve over time without intervention. However, others may continue to struggle with their speech. Without treatment, these problems will persist into adulthood. Speech disorders can be much more difficult to treat in adults compared to children, so we recommend contacting a qualified speech pathologist if you’re concerned about your child’s speech.
TFK Speech Sound Disorders7

In most cases, the cause of these disorders is unknown. However, articulation and phonological disorders are sometimes caused by physical abnormalities, imitating incorrect speech habits or developmental disorders. 

A speech pathologist can help identify the potential cause and recommend appropriate treatment for your child’s speech problems.

Our expert speech pathologists are here to help

At Therapies For Kids, we believe in every child’s potential. Our Sydney-based speech pathologists can help children develop speech and language skills, literacy skills, alternative communication methods and address feeding or swallowing disorders. We’re experienced with a range of speech conditions and will ensure your child feels safe, confident and capable while building lifelong speech and language skills.

Enquire now to discuss speech pathology in Sydney for your child.

Contact our speech pathologists in Sydney today!

By Debbie Evans

Executive Director

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