A comprehensive guide to the most common speech disorders or speech and language disorders
Speech disorders are no uncommon condition. An estimated 7.5 million Americans have some sort of problem with their speech. These millions of people could have any number of speech conditions ranging from selective mutism to vocal cord damage.
There are certain speaking disorders that are more common than others, though. Each disorder has specific causes and symptoms that you can use to identify them.
We’re going to go over some of the most common speaking disorders that occur in both children and adults. Keep reading to learn more.
Apraxia of Speech (AOS)
Apraxia of Speech (AOS) is a condition where you are physically unable to say what you want. This is usually the result of damaged neural pathways or brain damage. When the pathways that connect the brain to the speech muscles are damaged, you are unable to physically say what you want to say.
You can think of the words, write down the words, and understand speech, but your ability to actually speak those words is inhibited or impossible. The level of severity can range with this condition. Some people maintain an ability to be understood while others are incoherent in their speech.
There’s also a specific subset of this condition called Childhood Apraxia of Speech. This is a childhood disorder where the neural pathways for speech don’t develop normally or on the “normal” timeline.
Children with this condition can:
- Be late talkers
- Have abnormal mouth/jaw movements
- Emphasize syllables incorrectly
- Have inconsistent pronunciation
The causes of this condition, both in children and adults, are neurological. This could be genetic or the result of TBI (traumatic brain injury) like concussions, strokes, infections, etc.
Chances are you’ve heard someone stutter before. It’s very common with an estimated 3 million Americans having a stutter at some point.
There are two subsets of this condition: developmental stuttering and neurogenic stuttering.
Stuttering is characterized by the repetition of sounds, interruption of speech, repetition of words, or overuse of fillers like “um” or “er”.
Developmental stuttering is most often seen in children, and 75% of kids grow out of their stutter. This is usually the result of kids not developing their speech correctly, causing them not to be able to get the words out as fast as they’re thinking them. It can be helped with speech therapy.
Neurogenic stuttering is usually caused by traumatic brain injuries like head trauma, concussions, strokes, etc.
Lisping is another well-known condition that you’re probably already familiar with. Most of us think of the “th” instead of “s” sound as a lisp, which isn’t incorrect. But there are actually 4 different kinds of lisps that are considered speech disorders.
The common one we think of is the “th” sound that’s made incorrectly instead of an “s” sound. This is called interdental lisp, and it occurs when the tongue pushes past the front teeth when trying to make the “s” sound.
While lisps like this are most common in children, they can persist into adulthood. Lisping is what’s known as a functional speech disorder. This means that it can be adjusted and sometimes corrected with speech therapy.
Speech therapy for those with lisps includes relearning pronunciation, muscle strengthening exercises, and general annunciation coaching.
People with spasmodic dysphonia (SD) suffer from abnormal spasms in the vocal cords. This can cause the voice to sound strained, tight, broken, soft, hoarse, and/or jittery.
An estimated 50,000 people have SD in the United States. However, this is considered a low estimate since many physicians believe that people are misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed.
Unlike most of the other things we’ve gone over so far, this condition is more common in adults than in children. Onset is usually between the ages of 30 and 50. There’s no single cause of SD; most agree that it’s related to aging and changes in muscles and nervous system pathways.
Those who have trouble talking or find that their voice is particularly shaky or hoarse because of SD can have success with speech therapy.
Aphasia is a condition that occurs after a traumatic brain injury, usually stroke. Those who suffer from a stroke have a one in three chance of developing aphasia. There are an estimated 2 million people with aphasia in the United States.
Brain injury can affect the blood flow to our brain, especially during a stroke. When this happens in language and communication centers in the brain, it can lead to this condition.
Aphasia is characterized by:
- Trouble getting words out
- Difficulty finding/saying the correct words
- Difficulty understanding communication
- Inability to produce coherent words/sentences
- Difficulty/inability reading and writing
Those with aphasia have trouble speaking and communicating properly. There are things that can treat aphasia post-injury to help relearn communication skills that may have been lost or inhibited because of the injury.
Autism and Speech Disorders
Autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in 100 people, making it one of the most common disorders on this list. Not all people with autism have trouble speaking. But, problems with speech, communication, and social cues are some of the most common symptoms of autism.
Difficulty or inability to speak because of autism spectrum disorder can be helped with speech therapy. Therapy can include:
- Learning communication cues
- Learning the meaning of words
- Socializing with others
- Learning exercises to help make speaking easier
Parents or relatives of those on the spectrum are often encouraged to come along to therapy sessions. This helps the person communicate effectively with the encouragement of their loved one.
Common Speaking Disorders: Wrapping Up
Speaking disorders might seem uncommon, but millions of people around the world are affected by them. It could be something as simple as a childhood stutter or a result of a traumatic brain injury. Whatever the case, speech disorders can affect communication, confidence, and even mental health.
Hopefully these descriptions of the most common disorders can help you understand them a bit better. If you want more information on these disorders and how they can be treated, check out our blog articles.
You can also contact us with any questions.