Speech Sound Disorder

Speech Sound Disorder

What is a Speech Sound Disorder?

Speech sound disorder is a type of communication disorder that causes difficulty speaking clearly and producing certain speech sounds required to communicate. Children with speech sound disorders often struggle to control their voice, and may also exhibit speech problems such as a stutter or lisp. It is often difficult for others to understand them, despite the child knowing what it is they want to communicate. 

Speech sound disorder is different from a language disorder and it only involves difficulties with producing certain sounds, whereas language disorders involve challenges with using and understanding language. Individuals with speech sound disorders don’t have problems comprehending language. 

If your child is struggling to produce certain speech sounds or speak clearly in general, speech therapy is a highly valuable resource. Getting started with one of our qualified and experienced speech and language pathologists is as easy as scheduling your free introductory call today! 

What are the Symptoms of a Speech Sound Disorder?

While it is normal for young children to use overly simple and/or unclear language sounds, by the age of three, most children will be speaking more clearly. If a child’s speech does not improve and develop as they get older, they may have speech sound disorder. 

Some of the signs of speech sound disorder include: 

  • Difficulty Moving the Tongue, Jaw, and Lips 
  • Challenges Making Specific Speech Sounds
  • Not Speaking as Clearly or Fluently as Peers
  • Others Cannot Understand Them
  • Sudden Changes in Pitch and/or Volume when Speaking
  • A Voice that Sounds Hoarse, Nasal, or Raspy
  • Stuttering or Lisping 
  • Running out of Breath when Talking
  • Using the Muscles in their Face for Such Things as Chewing or Blowing their Nose

How is Speech Sound Disorder Diagnosed?

A speech and language pathologist performs an evaluation using standardized tests to determine whether a child has speech sound disorder.  Children are typically diagnosed when the speech sounds they are producing are significantly less clear than what is expected for their age and stage of development. It is also important to have the child checked for hearing loss, as a child with hearing loss will have more difficulty developing clear speech. 

What Causes Speech Sound Disorders?

While many children learn to accurately produce speech sounds over time, some do not. And many parents may not know why their child has difficulty speaking.

Some children have speech problems due to weakness in the muscles that are required to produce speech sounds. This is referred to as dysarthria.

Some children have speech problems due to the brain having difficulty sending messages to the speech muscles communicating how and when to move. This is referred to as apraxia. Childhood apraxia of speech is not very common but will result in significant speech problems.

Your child may develop a speech sound disorder if they:

  • Have a Developmental Disorder such as Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • A Genetic Syndrome such as Down Syndrome
  • Hearing Loss or Impairment 
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

Adults can also struggle with speech sound disorders. Some adults may have problems that began when they were children that were not addressed in childhood. Others develop speech problems following a stroke or traumatic brain injury, or other trauma to the brain. 

What is the Most Common Speech Sound Disorder?

Some of the most common speech sound disorders include articulation disorder and phonological processing disorder.

Children with an articulation disorder will mispronounce certain sounds which directly affects the intelligibility of their speech. Some of the most commonly seen misarticulations in articulation disorders are distortions, omissions, and substitutions. 

Omissions: Omissions of some speech sounds occur when a child isn’t able to produce a specific sound within a word. An example of these kinds of omissions is when a child says ‘ool’ instead of ‘pool.’

Substitutions: This is a very common speech sound error. These occur when the child substitutes a sound they cannot produce with one that they can. For example, saying ‘thun’ for ‘sun.’

Distortions: Distortions occur when a child produces a non-typical sound for a typical sound. This means that the sound is altered or changed, which ultimately affects the word as a whole. 

Phonological process disorder occurs when a child repeatedly makes typical and expected patterns of speech sound errors. While the mistakes may be common in younger children as they learn and develop their speech skills, when these mistakes continue beyond a certain age, it may be a phonological process disorder. If you are concerned that your child is not meeting the appropriate speech milestones for their age, it is important to connect with a speech and language pathologist. Don’t wait for your child to fall further behind, get started by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

How is Speech Sound Disorder Treated?

Speech sound disorder is commonly treated through regular speech therapy appointments with an experienced and knowledgeable speech and language pathologist that focuses on articulation and phonology. Speech therapy helps children to master the production of the particular sounds they find challenging as well as to identify the difference between the sounds and words they usually alter or mix up. In some milder cases, the disorder can disappear without intervention as the child continues to grow and develop. 

Speech Therapy for Speech Sound Disorder

The goals of speech therapy for speech sound disorder usually include the following: 

  • Learn how to correctly produce sounds
  • Learn to distinguish which sounds are correct or incorrect
  • Practice producing sounds in various words
  • Practice producing sounds in longer sentences

With carefully selected and appropriate approaches within speech therapy sessions, many children who struggle with articulation and phonological disorders will achieve vast improvements in their ability to speak clearly and fluently. Speech therapists work closely with the child, as well as their caregivers, to create a customized treatment plan to work towards overcoming their specific speech challenges. The speech and language pathologist will work with you and your child to:

  • Provide exercises that maintain the level of skill at present so that the condition doesn’t worsen
  • Identify the sounds your child is pronouncing incorrectly and model how to produce them effectively
  • Learn to correctly form certain sounds, beginning with the sound in isolation, then adding it into short words, building to longer words and sentences over time.
  • Offer at-home techniques, strategies, and exercises that parents can do daily with their child for further practice

If you are concerned about your child’s ability to produce certain speech sounds correctly, or simply want to provide extra support to them as they develop their speech and language skills, speech therapy is the best option. Getting started with Great Speech is as simple as scheduling your free introductory call today!