It is an exciting time when children start saying their first words and become more verbal. Speech is a major form of communication and expression. However, during this development time, children may experience articulation disorders. This can impact how they pronounce different words and cause them to say certain sounds or words incorrectly. For instance, they may leave off the beginning or ending sound of words or substitute one sound for another. Oftentimes children outgrow these issues as their language expands, but this is not always the case. When problems persist past a certain age or developmental stage, it may indicate an articulation disorder.
Speech language pathologists (SLP) have a variety of articulation tests that they can conduct to identify the child’s specific areas of need. They may also evaluate the physical structure of their mouth and muscles to see if these oral functions are affecting how the child speaks and forms sounds. Speech therapy and other treatments can help children to communicate more effectively.
What is an Articulation Disorder?
An articulation disorder affects how children make sounds. They may add, delete, or substitute sounds in certain words. “Run” may turn into “wun,” or “banana” may be “nana.” This is normal for young children just learning to speak, but once they hit an expected age, these issues should have resolved themselves. When they do not, this may be cause for concern.
Children may also experience phonological disorders. A phonological process disorder involves patterns of sound errors. For example, substituting all sounds made in the back of the mouth like “k” and “g” for those in the front of the mouth like “t” and “d” (e.g., saying “tup” for “cup” or “das” for “gas”).
Articulation Disorder in Children
The prevalence of articulation disorder in children varies. Studies show that it occurs in anywhere between 2 percent and 25 percent of children, and is slightly more frequently found in boys than girls. There are also instances where the issue is not a problem of articulation disorder but rather a characteristic of certain accents when a child speaks more than one language. Typical children should have mastered all English speech sounds by age 8.
Articulation disorders can make it more difficult for children to communicate and for others to understand what they are saying. With proper diagnosis, children can receive speech therapy and other treatment to correct articulation disorders and allow them to communicate more clearly and effectively.
What Causes an Articulation Disorder?
There is not always an identifiable cause for articulation disorders in children. Sometimes children just do not learn how to pronounce sounds correctly or understand the rules of speech on their own. They require more support and instruction. There may also be physical factors that play a role, such as developmental disorders, hearing loss, neurological disorders, genetic syndromes or illness. These issues can all affect a child’s speech development and contribute to articulation disorders. Articulation disorder testing can help to determine the cause if one is identifiable and can provide more information on specific articulation issues. Even if the exact cause is unknown, treatment can still be beneficial.
Speech Therapy and Treatment for Articulation Disorder
There are numerous ways that speech language pathologists can assist children in overcoming articulation disorders. Speech therapy and treatment can be targeted to specific skills as well as more generalized communication. Therapy may focus on the motor skills involved in forming and vocalizing certain sounds, on learning speech rules, and on applying these concepts across different contexts. As children progress, they can build on what they have learned to expand their mastery of sounds.
PediaPlex provides comprehensive testing to identify articulation disorders and create an individualized treatment plan for addressing these issues. Children may receive speech therapy along with other treatments or therapies to support them in improving their communication abilities. With proper intervention, children can overcome articulation disorders and learn to enunciate and pronounce words and sounds more clearly.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech development, PediaPlex can evaluate their progress and recommend therapies and other treatments to support their communication abilities.