Articulation/Phonological Disorders involve an individual’s speech sound productions. As children learn to talk, most will make speech sound errors that can affect their intelligibility- that is, how well they are understood by others. Many of these errors are expected, and represent developmental errors: for example, “wabbit” for “rabbit,” “tat” for “cat,” “thun” for “sun,” or “dis” for “this,” among many others. Such sound simplifications often resolve naturally as children mature, with different speech sounds and patterns typically emerging at different ages. Other speech patterns may include less typically observed sound substitutions or distortions, and thus make words and connected speech more difficult for listeners to understand. This often is a result of oral weakness or discoordination/poor motor planning, which may be associated with diagnoses of dysarthria or apraxia of speech. Structural differences or rapid rate of speech also can affect overall speech clarity.
An articulation disorder usually means that a group of specific speech sounds are being produced incorrectly or are absent from your child’s speech repertoire, such as “R” or “S” or “L.” A phonological disorder means that your child is simplifying his/her speech across a variety of sounds, such as omission of all final consonants (e.g., “du” for “duck,” “cu” for “cup,” and “ha” for “hat”), or reduction of consonant blends (e.g., “mell” for “smell,” “nake” for “snake,” “wog” for “frog,” “pease” for “please”).
A speech pathologist can help determine whether your child’s speech reflects typically expected sound simplifications for his/her age or whether these errors are persisting beyond an expected age level. A speech therapist also will work with your child if his/her speech errors are less typical and are perhaps more resistant to therapeutic intervention and/or compounded by other difficulties (e.g., oral-motor concerns).
Treatment for articulation and phonological disorders will vary depending on each client’s age, the number and type of sound errors, and the presence of any co-occurring difficulties.
Depending on your child’s skill levels and areas of need, therapy might involve practicing vowel sounds, syllables, one syllable words, multi-syllable words, phrases, and conversation. For younger clients, this work is usually play-based, while other children, particularly older ones, may benefit from a more structured approach.
Different types of facilitative prompts are provided as needed, including tactile prompts (where the clinician provides tactile/kinesthetic feedback to the client’s face or mouth with her hands or with special tools; visual cues (where the client is asked to watch the therapist’s face or his/her own face in a mirror or look at pictorial representations of a sound); or verbal descriptions of correct placement. SPG’s therapists draw from a variety of methodologies to help facilitate speech productions, including the Kaufman Method, PROMPT Technique, Hodson’s Cycles Approach, and Pamela Marshalla’s oral-motor curriculum.