Speech & Phonological Processes Disorders


Speech & Phonological Processes Disorders

As young children learn speech and language skills, it’s normal to have some difficulty saying words correctly. That’s part of the learning process. Children develop speech by learning how to use the structures of the mouth (jaw, lips, tongue, cheeks, and the soft palate) by moving them in a coordinated and precise manner to create the unique sounds of their language system. As their speech skills develop over time, children learn how to master certain sounds and words by modeling them from adults in their life. 



Articulation Disorders are when a child demonstrates the inability to form certain sounds correctly that are beyond an expected age. Sounds in words may be dropped, added, distorted, or substituted. However, it should be put into consideration that some sound changes may be part of an accent and are not speech errors. Signs of an articulation disorder can include:

  • Substitutions: one or more sounds are substituted (e.g., “TH” for “F” as in “Fumb” for “Thumb”)
  • Omissions: deleting or omitting sounds from the beginning, middle or end of words (e.g., “Cu” for “Cup”)
  • Distortions: where certain sounds are altered or changed to reduce the clarity of its sound features (e.g., “Shhpoon” for “Spoon”)
  • Addition: adding additional sounds to the word (e.g., “Puhlay” for “Play”)


Phonological Processes Disorders are when children continue to produce a system of sound pattern errors that are beyond an expected developmental timeframe. These mistakes may be common in young children learning speech skills. Signs of a phonological processes disorders may include:

  • Syllable Reduction: Saying only one syllable in a word (e.g., “bay” instead of “baby”)
  • Reduplication: Simplifying a word by repeating two syllables (e.g., “baba” instead of “bottle”)
  • Final Consonant Deletion: Leaving out a consonant sound (e.g., “at” or “ba” instead of “bat”)
  • Fronting: Changing certain consonant sounds (e.g., “tat” instead of “cat”)



Articulation and phonological disorders can be the result of an organic or functional origin.  Below are common reasons, but are not limited to:


  • Cleft-lip and palate or other craniofacial trauma/surgery.
  • Brain Injury due to head trauma
  • Neurodevelopmental conditions: autism, childhood apraxia of speech
  • Intellectual or developmental disability
  • Problems with hearing or hearing loss, such as a history of ear infections
  • Disorders affecting the nerves involved in speech production


  • Family history of speech delay
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Gender – the incidence of speech sound disorders is higher in males than in females (sources: Everhart, 1960; Morley, 1952; Shriberg et al., 1999).



A speech-language pathologist will perform a comprehensive evaluation that will review the following:

  • Structural Deviations: Cleft lip/palate, enlarged tonsils, or adenoids that may be impacting airway patency resulting in maladaptive speech behaviors
  • Assess if there are any functional problems of the muscles of the mouth that may be affecting your child’s ability to speak clearly and eat efficiently/safely
  • Provide assessments listening to how your child speaks and determine whether the issues are typical for their age or can potentially be a speech sound disorder


Speech therapy can help your child improve their articulation skills by:

  • Recognizing and correcting sounds that they are making wrong
  • Teaching them how to correctly form their problem sound(s)
  • Practicing saying certain sounds in words and increasing the complexity
  • Practicing saying their sounds at home during different everyday activities

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