Articulation is the physical production of speech sounds. A child with speech sound disorders has difficulty articulating certain speech sounds. This can make the child hard to understand.
Types of Errors
Sounds in words and sentences may be completely left out. For example: "I go a coo o the buh." (I go to school on the bus.); or "I ree a boo." (I read a book.)
An incorrect (usually easier) sound is used instead of the correct one. For example: "I saw a wittle wamb;" "I tee de tun in the ty;" "I have a wed wadio;" "I'm a dood dirl."
The child tries to make the right sound, but cannot produce it clearly. For example, an /s/ sound may whistle, or the air comes out the sides of the mouth, making a "slushy" sound (a “lateral lisp”); or, the tongue may push between the teeth causing a “frontal lisp.”
For most children, the cause of the speech sound disorder in unknown. Other speech sound disorders can be linked to things such as a cleft palate, problems with the teeth, hearing loss, or difficulty controlling the movements of the mouth. Neurological disorders that can affect articulation include cerebral palsy.
Difficulty making voluntary movements of the tongue and lips, or with combining movements to make speech sounds. As a result, speech may be difficult to produce or may have many inconsistent articulation errors.
Paralysis, weakness, or generally poor coordination of the muscles of the mouth. This can make speech slow, inaccurate, slurred, and/or hypernasal (when too much sound comes through the nose).
Reasons for Concern
- If the child doesn't babble using consonant sounds (particularly b, d, m and n) by age 8 or 9 months
- If the child does not produce one word other than mom or dad by 12 months
- If the child uses mostly vowel sounds and gestures for communication after 18 months
- If speech cannot be understood by strangers at the age of 3
- If the child often leaves out consonants from words at the age of 3
- If speech is still difficult to understand at the age of 4
- If, by 6, the child is still unable to produce many sounds
- If the child is leaving out, substituting, or distorting sounds after the age of 7
- If the child is embarrassed or worried about his speech at any age