Speech Sound Disorders

What are speech sound disorders? 

As children learn to speak, they make words easier to say by deleting or changing sounds. As they grow older, children say more speech sounds. This makes their words easier to understand. If your child has a speech sound disorder, they cannot say sounds and words like other children their age.

Three types of speech sound disorders include:

  • Articulation disorder: difficulty saying certain speech sounds. You may notice your child drops, adds, distorts or substitutes sounds in words.
  • Phonological process disorder: where your child uses patterns of errors. The mistakes may be common in young children learning speech skills. When the errors continue past a certain age, it may be a disorder.
  • Disorders that involve a combination of articulation and phonological process disorders.

Some sound changes may be part of your child’s accent or family dialect, and not a true speech disorder.

Causes of speech sound disorders

Speech sound disorders can be caused in a few ways:

Symptoms of speech sound disorders 

Signs of a speech sound disorder can include:

  • Substituting sounds in words (saying “wain” instead of “rain”)
  • Distorting sounds in words (saying “thoap” instead of “soap”)
  • Adding sounds to words (saying “puhlay” instead of “play”)
  • Saying only one syllable in a word (saying “bay” instead of “baby”)
  • Simplifying a word by repeating a syllable (saying “baba” instead of “bottle”)
  • Leaving out a consonant sound (saying “at” or “ba” instead of “bat” or saying “tar” instead of “star”)
  • Saying words differently each time (saying “buh” for “go” the first time, then “agah” for “go” the second time)

Testing and diagnosis for speech sound disorders

One of our speech-language pathologists (SLP) may assess your child’s speech through formal testing, language samples, play-based activities, and observations of your child’s mouth structures and movements. Our SLP will determine if your child’s sound errors are expected for their age. If not, they may have a speech sound disorder. Treatment with a CHOP SLP can help your child with their speech development.  

Treatment for speech sound disorders 

Our SLP will create goals to support your child’s speech development. Goals may include recognizing speech sounds and learning how to say speech sounds and words. Each child is unique and may have different needs. The therapy approach will depend on the specific diagnosis and your child’s needs. Once your child says a sound in therapy on their own, it will take time for them to say it consistently. Our SLP will work patiently with your child toward their speech development goals.

Speech-language therapy sessions involve you, your child, their other caregiver(s) and a SLP. Sessions may be play-based or structured with tabletop activities. This will depend on your child’s needs and abilities. Sessions also include your child's interests and your family's culture. This leads to better engagement, relevance, learning and fun.

Early recognition and diagnosis of speech sound disorders can help your child overcome speech problems. With proper treatment and support, your child can learn how to communicate clearly.