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Speech Sound Disorders: Articulation Disorder vs. Phonological Process Disorder

girl on phone-speech sound disordersIs your child having trouble producing one or more sounds? If so, they may have a speech sound disorder.  While all children make mistakes when saying new sounds and words, a speech sound disorder (SSD) occurs when mistakes continue past a certain age.  There are two main types of speech sound disorders: articulation disorders (difficulty making sounds) and phonological process disorders (difficulty with sound patterns).

Articulation Disorders

An articulation disorder is due to problems making certain sounds. These disorders are usually characterized by substitution, distortion, omission or addition of sounds in words. Children with articulation disorders have difficulty learning the way to physically produce certain sounds even though all of their “articulators” are working correctly. For example, many children that I work with have trouble saying the “r” sound and will often say “wabbit” instead of rabbit.  Another common articulation problem I see in children is when they distort the “s” sound (sometimes referred to as a frontal or lateral lisp).

If your child is having trouble with one or more speech sounds please refer to the chart below to determine if this is a sound they should have acquired by their age.  If the sound disorder is persisting past the expected age of mastery, it is recommended that you seek assistance from a speech-language pathologist.

Speech and Articulation Development Chart

Phonological Process Disorder

A phonological process disorder consists of patterns of sound errors. Children with phonological process disorders have difficulty learning the sound system.  There are many phonological processes (more blogs to come with descriptions and examples of various patterns) although some are more common than others.  One that I see quite frequently is “fronting”. Fronting occurs when children substitute sounds made in the back of the mouth like “k” and “g” with those made in the front of the mouth like “t” and “d” (e.g., saying “tan” for “kan” or “dot” for “got”).

My favorite fronting story occurred while working with a six-year-old boy who was still demonstrating the phonological process. After several sessions, he correctly said the word “key” all by himself. I started cheering and he looked at me with the biggest smile possible and said “tan you believe I just said that?”  

While it is common and even normal for young children to use some phonological processes, they may have a phonological disorder if these patterns persist past a certain age.  If you think your child might be using one or more phonological processes, please refer to the chart below to determine if this pattern should have been eliminated by their age. If the phonological process is persisting past the expected age of elimination, it is recommended that you seek assistance from a speech-language pathologist.

Elimination of Phonological Processes in Typical Development Chart

This is just a brief introduction into speech sound disorders.  If you suspect that your child is demonstrating articulation or phonological difficulties or both, please contact Samantha at Chicago Speech and More 847-774-0582.

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