Articulation refers to the way humans produce sounds which includes the adjustments and movements of speech organs, such as the tongue or the lips. Sometimes, children will mispronounce a speech sound resulting in speech that is difficult to understand. When they make these same speech errors on a consistent basis, it can be a sign that the child has developed an articulation disorder.
Many common problems with articulation have been thought to be developmental in nature; for example, the ability to generate the ‘th’ sound does not generally develop until children are between 6-8 years of age. However, more recently, research has shown that articulation has no developmental norms and that even children with common types of articulation problems could benefit from early speech therapy.
More serious articulation disorders are characterized as a problem with articulation which generally begins early in the child’s speech development and persists throughout childhood. Articulation disorders include errors in speech production which make understanding your child very difficult, such as omissions, substitutions or distortions.
Causes of Articulation Disorders
Causes of articulation disorders vary greatly and include everything from ear infections to neurological dysfunction. In some children, there might not be an identifiable cause. There are also many types of articulation disorders; in fact, it is the largest subset of all speech-language problems.
Symptoms to Watch For
So how can you, as a parent, tell if your child has a natural developmental delay in articulation or if he or she has an articulation disorder? Here are some examples of symptoms that could mean your child has an articulation disorder:
- Babble doesn’t include consonant sounds by the age of 8-9 months
- Speech is mostly unrecognizable at the age of 3
- Continuation to leave consonants out of words at the age of 3
- Even at 4, speech is still difficult to comprehend
- Still not producing many sounds by the age of 6
- Distorting, substituting or omitting sounds after 7 years of age
- Worried about his speech, no matter what the age
Treatment of an Articulation Disorder
If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms and you want to determine if he or she has an articulation disorder, a licensed speech-language pathologist can conduct a thorough evaluation. These professionals are specifically trained to identify and treat speech-language disorders and will be able to both diagnose the problem and suggest a follow-up course of action.
Generally, articulation therapy will consist of a series of drills or exercises that will help the child correct his/her sound productions and will depend heavily on repetition. The exact nature of these exercises will differ depending on the type of articulation disorder that your child exhibits. Because the success of these drills will depend on getting your child to repeat the sounds, it is important that you, as a parent, also get involved and practice with your child between therapy sessions.
Chicago Speech Therapy Addresses Articulation Disorders