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What is Deaffrication in Children

The ability to speak is a remarkable inborn skill. Children need ample opportunities to hone this skill. Like any physical skill, children improvise and do their best to articulate themselves clearly.

Baby talk can be cute, and you may remember some of them as phonological processes. Babies use these patterns to simplify the speech sounds of adults. Since children cannot coordinate their articulators, such as their lips, tongue, and teeth, for producing "adult-like" speech, they use these processes during their speech and language development.

As a result of this developmental stage, children follow predictable routes to simplify words until they acquire the necessary skills to pronounce them clearly. One of the predictable routes is called deaffrication. We will explain everything you need to know about deaffrication in this article. Follow along.

What is Deaffrication?

First, deaffrication is like a move over affrication. So let's start from there. When we speak, we use different sounds. These sounds have names or classifications. Now, one of the classes of sounds is affricate.

An affricate is a type of consonant sound in which there is a brief period of friction (like a consonant produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together) followed by a sudden release of air (like a stop). In other words, it combines the features of both friction and stopping.

Examples of affricates in English include "ch" (as in "chair") and "j" (as in "jump"). When pronounced, the speaker creates friction by partially blocking the airflow with the tongue and then releases the airflow suddenly by opening the oral cavity.

That is an affricate. Imagine that a baby is trying to produce a sound that is this complex when they have not yet mastered the control of their articulators. They make it simple with deaffrication.

So what is deaffrication?

Deaffrication refers to a substitution pattern in which an affricate, such as "ch" or "j," is replaced with a fricative or stop, such as "sh" or "d." If you've ever heard a child say "ships" instead of "chips," you've witnessed deaffrication in action.

Deaffrication is a phonological process where an affricate sound, such as "ch" or "dj", is transformed into a stop, such as "p", "b", "t", or "d", or a fricative, such as "s", "z", or "sh". For instance, "shop" instead of "chop" or "tear" instead of "chair" are examples of deaffrication.

Like other phonological processes, deaffrication is common among young children and typically resolves by the age of 4. However, it may be considered a phonological disorder if it persists beyond this age.

The professional can use a "minimal pairs" approach to target deaffrication in speech therapy. This involves having the child repeat pairs of words that differ by only one sound, typically the target sound and the corresponding substituted sound.

For example, the word list could focus on "ch" and "sh" minimal pairs, such as "CHIP" and "SHIP." Another effective strategy is auditory discrimination, which involves training children to accurately distinguish sounds. Asking children to identify whether a word includes the "ch" or "j" sound can help promote attentive listening and facilitate correct sound production.

Why Understanding Deaffrication is Important

Understanding deaffrication is crucial because it can impact a child's communication and social interactions. If a child consistently replaces affricate sounds with fricatives or stops, their speech may be difficult for others to understand.

When a child still uses it while all their peers have started speaking normally, it can lead to frustration and social isolation. It can also cause potential academic and career difficulties later in life. If deaffrication persists past the age of 4, it may indicate a phonological disorder that requires professional intervention.

By identifying and addressing deaffrication early on, parents and educators can help children develop clear and practical communication skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

How to Identify Deaffrication in Children

The signs and symptoms of deaffrication in children can vary depending on the severity and stage of the condition. Here are some common signs and symptoms that parents and caregivers should look out for:

  • Pronouncing "ch" and "j" sounds like "sh" and "zh," respectively, such as saying "ship" instead of "chip" or "measure" instead of "treasure".

  • Difficulty with enunciating certain words or sounds, especially those that contain affricate sounds.

  • Stuttering or struggling with speech, particularly when trying to say certain words or phrases.

  • A slow rate of speech or hesitation when speaking.

  • Difficulty with language comprehension and production, such as difficulty following directions or expressing thoughts coherently.

It's important to note that some degree of deaffrication is common in young children as they are still developing their speech and language skills. However, if the symptoms persist or interfere with a child's ability to communicate effectively, it may be a cause for concern and require professional evaluation and treatment.

Why Do Children Use Deaffrication?

Young children use phonological processes to simplify the language they hear from adults. These processes consist of three components: syllable structure, substitution, and assimilation. If these processes persist beyond the age of four, it is advisable to seek the opinion of a speech pathologist with a speech evaluation.

Regardless of the child's age, speech therapy or a literacy program is often recommended. Fronting refers to the substitution of a back-of-the-mouth sound with a fronting sound (e.g., "tee" for "key") and typically resolves by 3.5 years of age.

Young children use phonological processes to simplify the language spoken by adults, as they cannot coordinate their lips, tongue, teeth, palate, and jaw to produce clear speech. The child's brain creates rules to simplify speech sounds, making it easier to learn and speak.

While some of these processes are typical for all children, some may indicate an abnormality that requires investigation by a speech-language pathologist. Treatment involves retraining the brain to eliminate the rule.

The syllable structure is present in both hemispheres of the brain. Fronting refers to the pronunciation of a vowel on the front of the tongue (palatal) in a word, such as the 'i' sound in 'sip.' Consonant harmony occurs when all consonants in a word are pronounced the same way, as in the 'cup' sound made by the front of the tongue on the roof of the mouth.

Weak syllable deletion is the removal of a syllable from a word, such as the omission of 'tele' in 'telephone.' Clustering is the grouping of syllables to form one long syllable, as in the 'y' sound produced by the front of the tongue on the roof of the mouth when pronouncing 'try.'

Assimilation is the process of combining sounds from one word into another, such as the 'f' sound in 'teffone,' which results from the front tongue on the roof of the mouth. If phonological processes persist beyond the age of four, it is recommended to consult a speech pathologist for a free phone consultation or speech evaluation, and speech therapy may be necessary regardless of the child's age.

When to See a Professional

If your child is still using deaffrication patterns after the age of four, it is recommended to seek the advice of a licensed speech-language pathologist. Early intervention can be beneficial in addressing the issue and promoting clear speech.

A speech-language pathologist can conduct a thorough assessment and provide individualized therapy to target the specific areas of difficulty.

Delaying intervention can lead to more persistent speech difficulties and may affect your child's communication and academic success. Therefore, it is important to seek professional help when you have concerns about your child's speech development.

Available Treatment for Deaffrication

Several treatment options are available for deaffrication in children, depending on the severity of the condition and the child's individual needs. Some of the most common treatment options include:

  • Speech Therapy: This is the most common and effective treatment option for deaffrication in children. A speech therapist will work with the child to identify the specific sounds that are causing the deaffrication and develop a treatment plan that includes exercises and activities to help the child produce the correct sounds.

  • Minimal Pairs Approach: This approach involves using pairs of words that differ by only one sound, such as "chip" and "ship", to help the child hear and produce the correct sounds.

  • Auditory Discrimination Training: This involves helping the child learn to distinguish between different sounds by practicing listening exercises and games.

  • Articulation Therapy: This therapy focuses on helping the child learn how to move their mouth, lips, and tongue to produce the correct sounds.

  • Parental Involvement: Parents can play an important role in helping their child overcome deaffrication by practicing speech exercises at home, providing positive reinforcement, and creating a supportive environment for their child's speech development.

It is important to note that the specific treatment approach will depend on the severity of the child's deaffrication and the condition's underlying cause. A speech therapist will work with the child and their family to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to their needs.

Tips for Parents and Caregivers

Parents and caregivers can play an essential role in helping their children overcome deaffrication. Here are some ways they can assist:

Model correct speech sounds: Children learn from the speech sounds they hear around them. Parents and caregivers can model correct speech sounds by pronouncing words clearly and accurately.

  • Use minimal pairs: As mentioned earlier, a minimal pairs approach can be useful in correcting deaffrication. Parents and caregivers can create word lists with minimal pairs, such as "chip" and "ship" or "jump" and "gum," and practice them with their children.

  • Encourage listening: Listening is a crucial skill in developing correct speech sounds. Parents and caregivers can encourage children to listen carefully to the sounds around them, such as the sounds of different animals, cars, or musical instruments.

  • Practice tongue and mouth exercises: These exercises can help children develop stronger oral muscles and coordination. Parents and caregivers can consult with a speech-language pathologist to learn about exercises to help their child.

  • Be patient and supportive: It is essential to be patient and supportive when helping a child overcome deaffrication. Children may become frustrated or self-conscious about their speech difficulties. Encouragement, positive reinforcement, and a non-judgmental attitude can go a long way in building their confidence and helping them progress.

However, it's important to note that while parents and caregivers can help, it's best to seek the guidance of a licensed speech-language pathologist for professional assessment and treatment.

Strategies For Promoting Speech Development

Here are some strategies that parents and caregivers can use to promote speech development in children:

  • Talk to your child: Engage in regular conversation with your child, even if they are not yet able to speak in full sentences. Speak to them in a clear, slow, and calm manner and use simple language that is appropriate for their age.

  • Read to your child: Reading to your child is a great way to promote speech development. Choose books with simple language and colorful illustrations to which your child can relate.

  • Sing songs and nursery rhymes: Singing songs and nursery rhymes with your child can help them develop their language skills and improve their memory and attention span.

  • Encourage imitation: Encourage your child to imitate the sounds and words they hear around them. Repeat the words and sounds they make and praise them for their efforts.

  • Play games: Play games with your child that involve language skills, such as naming objects or describing actions. This can help them develop their vocabulary and sentence structure.

  • Limit screen time: Excessive screen time can interfere with speech development. Limit your child's screen time and encourage them to engage in other activities that promote language development.

  • Seek professional help: If you are concerned about your child's speech development or if they have difficulty with deaffrication or other speech sounds, seek professional help from a speech-language pathologist. They can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend treatment options to help your child overcome their speech difficulties.

Typically, young children, particularly those aged 2 and 3, make multiple speech errors within the same sentence, which can pose communication challenges for unfamiliar adults.

While this article suggests that you seek assistance when your child is four or five, parents and caregivers should ultimately rely on their knowledge of their child's speech development and feel comfortable discussing any concerns with a speech pathologist.

As a general rule, it may be wise to consult with a professional if a child's speech appears less developed or less understandable than that of their peers. If the child seems anxious or frustrated about their speech, or if they are self-conscious or experiencing bullying because of their speech, they may have an issue. Consult a professional if concerns are raised by childcare, preschool, or school teachers.

You can also consult a therapist or pathologist if you simply want to ensure there are no underlying issues with your child.



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