What are speech sound disorders?

Functional speech sound disorders include those related to the motor production of speech sounds and those related to the linguistic aspects of speech production. Historically, these disorders are referred to as articulation disorders and phonological disorders, respectively. Articulation disorders focus on errors (e.g., distortions and substitutions) in production of individual speech sounds. Phonological disorders focus on predictable, rule-based errors (e.g., fronting, stopping, and final consonant deletion) that affect more than one sound. It is often difficult to cleanly differentiate between articulation and phonological disorders; therefore, many researchers and clinicians prefer to use the broader term, “speech sound disorder,” when referring to speech errors of unknown cause.

Articulation Speech Sound Disorder

Phonological Speech Sound Disorder

How common are speech sound disorders?

Overall, 2.3% to 24.6% of school-aged children were estimated to have speech delay or speech sound disorders

Signs and symptoms of speech sound disorders

Common signs of speech sound disorders include:

  • Persistent difficulty with the production of speech sounds that interferes with the intelligibility of one’s speech or prevents verbal communication
  • Limitations on communication interfere with social participation or performance at school or work
  • The symptoms begin early in life and are not attributable to other medical or neurological conditions
  • Leaving out sounds or substituting an incorrect sound for a correct one
  • A quality of voice (e.g., atypically hoarse or nasal) or sudden changes in pitch or loudness that make understanding speech more difficult
  • Running out of air while talking

Treatment for speech sound disorders

Treatment for speech sound disorder primarily consists of speech and language therapy. A speech-language pathologist can develop a treatment plan that helps children identify and correct the sounds or words they have difficulty saying.

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