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Common Articulation Disorders in Children Explained

Children learn a language when they are in their mother’s wombs. They can easily pick up the language or languages used by their family and environment. However, learning to speak a language takes time, and each child develops at their own pace.

While most children typically reach language and speech milestones, some may struggle with certain sounds, words, and sentences. Nonetheless, by age 5, most children can easily use language.

Children may sometimes show signs of normal language and speech development but fail to produce certain phonemes. This can result in difficulty with pronunciation and articulation. This article highlights and explores the common examples of articulation disorders in children.

When is it an Articulation Disorder?

Mispronunciations and errors in speech are common among young children as they learn to talk. Adults may find these mistakes cute and mistake them for baby talk. As children grow older, their articulation skills improve, and their speech usually becomes much clearer.

Most children outgrow this ‘baby-talk’ phase naturally, but if a child is having difficulty producing sounds and communicating, it may be a sign of a more serious problem.

It is normal for children to take some time to develop their speech properly, and there can be minor delays in developing some speech abilities. However, a prolonged delay may be caused by a speech disorder in certain Apraxia of Speeches.

If you suspect your child is affected by a speech disorder, your doctor may refer you to a pediatric neurologist or a speech therapist. Common speech disorders in children include articulation disorders, phonological disorders, and stuttering.

An articulation disorder is diagnosed when a child has difficulty producing certain sounds correctly. This can happen when a child has difficulty forming the sound correctly or cannot say the sound at all.

Articulation disorders are typically diagnosed when a child has difficulty producing age-appropriate sounds or when their speech is so unclear that it is difficult to understand. If a child is having difficulty producing certain sounds, they may need speech therapy to help them learn how to produce the sound correctly.

Common Articulation Disorders in Children

Certain children may experience difficulty understanding and speaking and may require extra help. If a child does not reach language milestones at the same rate as other children, it may be a sign of a language or speech delay or disorder.

Here are the most common examples of articulation disorders in children.

1. Apraxia of Speech

Apraxia of speech is when a child has difficulty with speech production or the physical act of producing speech sounds. This can make it difficult for children to talk with their peers or to express their needs to their parents. It can also make it difficult for children to learn to read and write.

Apraxia of speech can affect individuals at any age, but it is more common in children. It is also more common in children with other speech or language disabilities, such as articulation disorders or verbal apraxia.

Childhood apraxia of speech is a neurological speech sound disorder in which the precision and consistency of movements involved in speech are impaired. Apraxia of Speech affects a child's ability to accurately, fluently, and consistently produce sounds and syllables.

Children with Apraxia of Speech have difficulty saying even simple words, and their speech may sound challenging to understand or even unintelligible. They may also have difficulty coordinating the muscles used for speech, which can lead to various speech patterns, including slow, choppy, and monotone speech.

Apraxia of Speech is usually present from birth but may not be diagnosed until a child is older. It is not always easy to diagnose because children's speech and language development can vary.

Some signs of Apraxia of Speech include difficulty saying sounds, stringing words together, and following directions. Children with Apraxia of Speech may also have difficulty controlling the pitch, loudness, and speed of their speech.

To diagnose Apraxia of Speech, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) will complete an assessment of the child's communication skills. This may include an examination of the child's speech, language, cognitive abilities, and oral motor skills.

The SLP may also use standardized tests and observe the child's speech in different contexts.

Treatment for Apraxia of Speech typically involves speech therapy. Speech therapy aims to help the child learn to use their muscles correctly to produce speech. This may involve imitation, repetition, practice, and strategies to help the child learn how to use their muscles correctly.

The SLP may also offer parent training to help the child practice their speech at home.

2. Stuttering

Stuttering is a speech disorder that affects the fluency of speech. People who stutter may repeat words or parts of words, have difficulty starting a word or sentence, prolong certain sounds, or exhibit other behaviors that disrupt their speech.

Children who stutter may feel embarrassed or anxious about their speech, leading to social, emotional, and educational challenges.

Everyone stumbles through their words now and then. In fact, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that 3 million Americans stutter. Of the 10% of children who stutter, up to three-quarters will outgrow it. It is important to note that stuttering is different from cluttering.

Stuttering typically begins between the ages of 2 and 5 and is more common in boys than girls. It is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for stuttering, but speech therapy and other interventions can help reduce stuttering and improve communication skills.

Therapy typically focuses on helping the child gain control over their speech and reducing the physical tension associated with stuttering. Techniques such as slowing down speech rate, using regular pauses, and emphasizing certain syllables can help make speech easier and more fluent.

In addition, speech therapy may include other strategies to help the child cope with their stuttering, such as relaxation techniques and building self-confidence.

3. Dysarthria

Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder caused by damage to the muscles and nerves that control speech. It affects how a person speaks, making their speech slurred and slow. Children with dysarthria may have difficulty forming words and may have a limited range of sounds or difficulty pronouncing certain sounds. They may also have difficulty controlling the volume and pitch of their voice.

Treatment for dysarthria typically involves speech-language therapy. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) will evaluate the child's speech and language skills and design an individualized treatment plan. Therapy aims to improve the child's clarity, rate, and volume.

This may involve exercises to improve the child's speech muscles, coordination, and strategies to help them learn to use their voice more effectively.

In addition to speech-language therapy, the SLP may recommend augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices to help the child communicate more effectively.

These devices can range from simple picture boards to sophisticated computer-based ones. An SLP can help the child and their family choose an AAC device that best meets their needs.

4. Lisping

Lisping is a common and easily recognizable speech disorder in which the speaker makes a “th” sound when trying to make an “s'' sound. This type of lisping, an interdental or dentalized lisp, is caused by the tongue reaching past or touching the front teeth. Other types of lisps include palatal, velar, lateral, and alveolar.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can provide extra expertise when diagnosing and treating lisping disorders. They can help distinguish between different types of lisps and ensure that a lisp is not confused with another type of disorder, such as apraxia, aphasia, impaired development of expressive language, or a speech impediment caused by hearing loss.

Treatment may include pronunciation and annunciation coaching, re-teaching how a sound or word should be pronounced, practicing in front of a mirror, and speech-muscle strengthening exercises such as drinking out of a straw.

Experts recommend seeking professional SLP intervention for any type of lisp as soon as possible. For an interdental or dentalized lisp, this should occur if a child has reached the age of four and still has a lisp.

5. Sound Omission

Sound omission is a speech disorder where a child omits certain sounds or syllables when speaking. This can result in the child leaving out part of a word or omitting entire words when speaking.

Sound omissions are most common in children who are still learning to speak and are often a result of the child not yet having the motor skills necessary to pronounce words properly.

The child may completely omit some sounds in words and sentences. For example, the child may say “at” when they mean to say “hat,” or “oo” to mean “shoe,” and so on.

Speech-language pathologists can help children with sound omissions work on their motor skills and develop their speech. They may use speech drills, articulation therapy, and other techniques to help the child improve their speech and develop their language skills.

Early Intervention

Early intervention refers to interventions aimed at preventing or addressing a problem as soon as it is identified. It is most commonly used in early childhood development and is usually initiated when a child is identified as having a developmental delay or disability.

Early intervention typically involves providing specialized services, such as therapy, educational support, and family services, to help the child reach their developmental milestones.

Early intervention can promote the child's overall development and help them avoid more serious developmental issues later.

Children with language difficulties may require additional assistance and tailored instruction. Speech-language pathologists can work directly with children, their parents, guardians, and teachers.

Early intervention services are available to children up to three years old who show evidence of a language or speech delay or disorder. Certain organizations, like the Scottish Rite Foundation, provide special education services for children aged three and older.

Many childcare programs undertake language or speech assessments to determine whether a child requires intervention. A healthcare professional should evaluate if there are any other worries regarding the child's hearing, behavior, or emotions. All involved parties—parents, healthcare providers, and schools—should collaborate to get the proper referrals and treatment.

Benefits of Early Intervention

Early intervention can be immensely beneficial for a variety of reasons. Early intervention can help identify any possible developmental delays and allow children to catch up with their peers.

Early intervention can also help reduce the risk of long-term developmental issues by providing children with the necessary resources to help them succeed. Early intervention can aid in children's social and emotional development, as they can engage in activities designed to help them build relationships and form lasting friendships.

Working with a Speech-Language Pathologist

Working with a speech-language pathologist can be a beneficial and rewarding experience. Speech-language pathologists evaluate, diagnose, and treat communication and swallowing disorders.

Speech-language pathologists are highly trained professionals who understand the complexities of communication and the many different ways it can be affected. They use various tools, including observation, assessment, and therapeutic intervention, to create tailored treatment plans for each patient. These plans can include activities, exercises, and modifications to the environment or the patient’s lifestyle to help improve communication.

In addition to working with individuals, speech-language pathologists can also work with families and caregivers to teach them how to support their loved one’s communication goals effectively. They can create a supportive and nurturing environment to ensure the best possible treatment outcomes.

Speech-language pathologists can provide a wide range of services, from therapy to advocacy. They are an integral part of any team of healthcare professionals and can provide valuable insight into a patient’s communication needs. With specialized knowledge, experience, and compassion, a speech-language pathologist can help individuals with communication difficulties live a more fulfilling life.

Helping All Children Overcome Articulation Disorders

Common articulation disorders are a serious yet treatable issue in children. Early diagnosis and intervention can help to remediate the problem, allowing children to express themselves more effectively. Speech-language pathologists can work with children to develop strategies to improve articulation and pronunciation and minimize the effects of the disorder.

With the right care, children with articulation disorders can lead normal, healthy lives and maximize their potential.

Here at the California Scottish Rite Foundation, we understand the importance of language in a child's future success. We are committed to helping these children acquire the skills they need to build a brighter future.

Your generous donation will enable us to continue our work and make a real difference in the lives of these children. Please consider donating today so that we can make a positive impact on the lives of these children. Thank you for your support!

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