Articulation is the word used to describe the way in which a speech sound is produced. Each speech sound is made by a unique position of the articulators (parts of the mouth) as air passes through the aperture made by the articulators. Each sound can be classified, by where it is made in the mouth or nose, how the air passes through and whether or not voice vibration occurs. Speech Pathologists use symbols called phonetics, to notate the sounds a person is making, e.g.
Articulation disorder can occur in people of any age. Do others find it difficult to understand you? Is it hard for you to understand a friend or family member? Does the speech sound fuzzy distorted or slushy? How easy or difficult is it to understand the speech? Does it matter? Why? Is there a medical or other diagnosed condition that can explain the speech problem? Does it sound typical for age or gender? Is the speech accented due to speaking English as a second language? It may help to be assessed by an experienced Speech Pathologist who can identify what is causing your speech difficulties and design a treatment program.
Articulation disorders or pronunciation difficulties can be caused by many things. Lets talk about children.
As children are developing speech, there are general rules of thumb to follow to know when to expect children to be able to pronounce and use certain sounds correctly. A good website to check is: www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/speechsounddisorders
All children make sound errors when they are developing. When these speech sound errors persist beyond the expected time, they may become a problem, and most particularly because they affect the child’s intelligibility, how well they can be understood. These are key questions to ask: How well can you understand what your child says? How well can others’ understand what your child says? Is this typical for their age? By the time a child is 3, we should understand much of what they say, by the time they are 4 and 5 years even an unfamiliar listener should understand almost all of what they say, even if articulation is not yet perfect. Naturally, this may also be linked to the way a child’s language and use of words and sentences is developing. When assessing articulation in children it may be necessary to look at their language development as well. Sound errors can be classified as articulation (they way sounds are produced) or phonological disorders (sound patterns). By age 8 your child should be using all their speech sounds correctly. There are other diagnoses for speech sound difficulties e.g. dyspraxia or dysarthria. A Speech Pathologist makes this diagnosis.
Because of the strong links between early speech sound development and literacy and learning issues at school, it is important to that your child has had the best chance at developing normal speech skills by the time they go to school. There are many reasons why a speech disorder may be present and you will need an assessment by a skilled Speech Pathologist who can determine the nature of your child’s difficulty and design a treatment approach that will work for you and your family.
Delays and difficulties with speech development can be a result of developmental disorders e.g. autism, genetic syndromes e.g. Downe’s syndrome, hearing loss, illness, neurological disorders like cerebral palsy, chronic medical conditions like middle ear fluid or infections.
School age children whose early childhood speech errors have persisted are unlikely to resolve or correct these speech problems on their own. Developmental errors may persist beyond the expected time, and whilst some speech problems can sound ‘cute’ on young children, as they get older and reach adolescence and adulthood, these speech problems may no longer appear so cute, detracting both socially and with employment opportunities as adults. Speech problems in school age children may be caused by many different factors, and assessment by an experienced Speech Pathologist is necessary to form an accurate diagnosis and design an appropriate treatment program.
A test will be chosen, suitable for the person’s age, that requires the them to say specific words which will elicit speech sounds in different word positions, to enable the Speech Pathologist to determine which sounds are mispronounced. Older children or adults may also be assessed while reading aloud, and chatting in natural conversation. An Orofacial Examination is also done to look at the anatomy and function of the orofacial muscles, which may impact pronunciation. The Speech Pathologist may recommend speech treatment if the sound is not appropriate for the person's age or if it is not a feature of a dialect or accent.
For more information please follow the link to an excellent website on speech sound disorders: speech-language-therapy.com
Well Spoken offers Speech Pathology skills in the management of: Voice, Fluency, Articulation, Hearing Impairment, Early Language Delays ….and more
Well Spoken offers Orofacial Myofunctional expertise: re-programming muscles of the face mouth and throat, correction of oral habits, swallowing, chewing, breathing & speaking, tongue tie….and more.
Sharon Moore Speech Pathologist has 30 years of clinical experience as a Speech Pathologist in Australia and overseas