Speech Sound Disorders: Articulation and Phonological Processes
A speech sound disorder (SSD) is a broad classification of disorders affecting a child’s (and sometimes adult’s) ability to communicate. Though all children make mistakes when learning new words and sounds, a disorder occurs when the child reaches a certain age and is still making certain mistakes. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help treat and possibly cure SSDs. The two main types of SSDs are articulation and phonological disorders.
The main characteristics of a SSD are:
Substitutions- one sounds is used in place of another
Distortions- a sound is changed slightly and made incorrectly
Omissions- certain sounds are completely left out
Additions- an extra sound is added to a word
Articulation disorders are characterized by substitution, distortion, omission or addition of sounds in words. A child with an articulation disorder will have difficulty learning how to physically produce certain sounds. One of the more common articulation problems is the inability for a child to produce the “r” sound. The “r” is often substituted with “w,” like saying “twee,” instead of “tree.” A lisp also is a common articulation distortion.
An SLP can teach a patient new ways to produce sounds (for example, changing the placement of the tongue when making certain sounds). Sounds in different words are practiced in repetition, until they become natural for the speaker.
Phonological Process Disorder
The hallmark of a phonological process disorder is a set pattern of sound errors. A child with a phonological process disorder will have difficulties learning the sound system. He or she may not realize that certain different sounds have different meanings. A common example is replacing the “d” sound with a “g”; saying “dot,” for example, instead of “got.” Children with this disorder may be able to hear the sound distinction in other peoples’ voices, but be unaware when they make the distortion.
An SLP will design a program involving studying and repeating words that differ only by one sound to indicate how different sounds signify different meanings. The suggested exercises will generalize age-appropriate phonological patterns.
Causes and Diagnosis
In most cases, the reason speech sound disorders occur is unknown. Many children outgrow the problem, but those who cannot learn to produce sounds correctly, or do not learn the rules of speech on their own, need intervention. A child with an articulation disorder who is over the age of eight, or a phonological process disorder who is over the age of five, should be evaluated by an SLP to determine the correct treatment plan.