Speech, Articulation &
Phonological Disorders

Speech production requires precisely coordinated muscle actions of the tongue, lips, jaw, and vocal tract to produce the recognizable sounds that make up language.

If a child's conversational speech is judged hard to understand, and scores on articulation testing are below the normative standards, the speech pathologist must determine whether the child is showing a primarily articulatory deficit or has a more phonologically based disorder. A speech problem is considered articulatory if it involves errors that are mostly distortions. When deletion and substitution errors are present, the disorder is considered primarily phonological.

For a true articulation disorder, a traditional approach targeting specific sounds is recommended. If phonological errors are present, or a combination of phonetic and phonological issues, a phonological or language-based approach is recommended. The best way to look for these patterns is to collect a sample of the child's spontaneous speech and analyze how the child is producing sounds in all word positions. There may be rule-governed patterns to their speech production that are identified and resolved with treatment. Working on the pattern error rather than the correct production of a specific sound serves to reinforce correct phonological development.

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