Articulation disorders are some of the most common speech disorders in children. This disorder affects a child’s ability to produce sounds correctly, making it difficult for them to be understood by others.
It can affect a child’s speech development and may have significant long-term effects if left untreated. Articulation disorders can be caused by physical, neurological, and/or functional factors.
In this article, we will discuss...
- The different types of articulation disorders,
- Their symptoms and effects, and
- The therapy options available to help children overcome these disorders.
Let’s dive in.
The Types of Articulation Disorders
There are many types of articulation disorders, including:
- Phonological Disorders are characterized by the substitution, omission, or distortion of sounds. For example, a child may produce “t” instead of “th” or use the same sound for multiple words (e.g. saying “dog” and “duck” with the same sound). This type of disorder can be caused by neurological or functional issues.
- Apraxia of Speech is a motor speech disorder that affects a child’s ability to plan and execute the movements that are needed for speech. It is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control the muscles used in speaking. Children with apraxia may know what they want to say, but have difficulty coordinating the movements of their muscles, resulting in unintelligible speech.
- Dysarthria is a type of articulation disorder caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles used for production of sound: their facial muscles, lips, tongue, and vocal cords. Children with dysarthria may have slurred or mumbled speech and may be difficult to understand.
- Organic Speech Sound Disorders are caused by structural impairments such as a cleft palate. This results to difficulty with eating, drinking, and speaking.
The Symptoms & Effects of Articulation Disorders
The symptoms and effects of articulation disorders in children vary depending on the type and severity. Common symptoms include:
- Difficulty pronouncing certain sounds or words,
- Slurred, mumbled, or distorted speech,
- Trouble with understanding directions,
- Lack of confidence in speaking and limited social interactions,
- Limited vocabulary or poor grammar.
Articulation disorders cause a wide variety of effects on a child’s development and quality of life. They often experience difficulty in understanding and being understood by others. This leads to difficulty making friends or participating in social events. In some cases, untreated articulation disorders can lead to problems with self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
Diagnosis and Therapy Options
Speech therapy is the main treatment option for children with articulation disorders. Various methods are used by Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) to help children learn how to correctly produce sounds and pronounce words. These methods include modeling, imitation, repetition, and practice drills. Speech therapists may also recommend additional treatment options such as augmentative and alternative communication methods for children who have difficulty with verbal communication.
The initial step in the treatment of a child’s articulation disorder is an evaluation by a Speech-Language Pathologist. The SLP will assess the child’s speech and language skills, as well as other factors such as motor skills and hearing.
Typically, the SLP will identify the type and number of speech errors or sounds that the child has difficulty producing. This information is used to determine which therapy methods are most appropriate for improving the child’s speech skills. The SLP will then create an individualized treatment plan for the child based on the assessment of their needs.
Intervention and Therapy Options
Early intervention is key to addressing articulation disorders in children. Parents and caregivers play an important role in helping their children develop good speech skills by providing an environment that encourages communication. This includes reading aloud to the child, talking about everyday activities, and playing interactive games.
Parents should also be aware of the warning signs of an articulation disorder and ensure that their child receives appropriate assessment and treatment from an SLP as soon as possible.
Some common therapy approaches for articulation disorders include:
- Articulation Therapy: This type of therapy focuses on teaching children how to produce specific sounds correctly. The SLP will work with the child to identify the sounds they are having difficulty with and teach them how to produce them correctly.
- Phonological Therapy: This type of therapy focuses on teaching children how to organize sounds and use them correctly in words and sentences. The SLP will work with the child to develop new ways of organizing and using sounds to improve their overall speech intelligibility.
- Oral Motor Therapy: This type of therapy focuses on improving the strength and coordination of the muscles used for speech. The SLP will work with the child to develop exercises that target these muscles, such as blowing bubbles or practicing tongue twisters.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication: In some cases, children with severe articulation disorders may benefit from the use of AAC devices, such as picture boards or electronic communication devices. These devices can help children communicate more effectively and improve their overall quality of life.
Additional Tips for Parents
In addition to therapy, parents and caregivers can also help children with articulation disorders by:
- Providing positive feedback and encouragement: Children with articulation disorders may become discouraged or frustrated with their speech difficulties. It is important to provide positive feedback and encouragement to help them stay motivated and engaged in therapy.
- Practicing speech exercises at home: The SLP may provide exercises or activities for the child to practice at home. Practicing these exercises regularly can help improve their speech abilities and speed up the therapy process.
- Creating a supportive environment: Children with articulation disorders may feel self-conscious or embarrassed about their speech difficulties. Creating a supportive and accepting environment can help children with speech sound disorders feel more confident in their treatment journey.
Schools and daycare centers can also help by providing a supportive speech environment where children are exposed to varied language experiences and are encouraged to use their speech skills.
Articulation disorders are a common type of speech disorder in children that can significantly affect their ability to communicate effectively. The cause of an articulation disorder can vary, as it can be caused by physical, neurological or functional factors. Early intervention is key to ensure these disorders are treated as soon as possible.
Do you feel that your child has a phonological disorder, apraxia of speech, or other articulation delays? Request for an assessment with one of our SLPs and know more about how we can help you.