What Is Articulation?

Articulation is the process of speaking. While it may feel natural to many, articulation is truly an art, involving incredible coordination of many body parts, including your tongue, lips, jaws and vocal cords to form sounds, syllables, and words. Difficulty in sound production may result in an articulation disorder. Rule based errors tend to be classified as phonological disorders.

What Is An Articulation Disorder?

An articulation disorder is defined as difficulty in producing a single or a few sounds or consistently mispronouncing specific consonants and vowels. Sounds can be substituted, left off, added or changed. A lisp, defined as the inability to pronounce the S sound and Z sound properly because of tongue placement, is a prime and familiar example of an articulation problem. Many individuals experience difficulty with the R sound, often substituting the letter W, saying wabbit instead of rabbit.

Sometimes the reasons behind the articulation disorder may be obvious like a diagnosis of cleft palate, cerebral palsy, hearing loss or even dental problems. Habitual thumb sucking can often lead to an overbite which can lead to articulation problems in children. Tongue thrust, where the tongue pushes through the front teeth, can also impact speech clarity and distort some sounds.

Articulation disorders in adults is common. Adults can be faced with articulation problems due to hearing difficulties, dental or oral issue or cognitive disorders.  Other times the cause is unclear. Some articulation disorders can be remediated with speech articulation exercises and practice sessions to change the habitual speech pattern.

An articulation disorder primarily focuses on the errors being made and the way the sound is produced. In contrast, phonological disorders which also impact speech clarity, focuses predictable and rule-based errors and can affect more than one sound.

What are Phonological Disorders?

Phonological disorders are a type of speech sound disorder but are different from more common articulation disorders. Children acquire speech and language skills by listening and imitating adults around them. As they develop articulation skills, some children have difficulty imitating all the sounds that they hear. To overcome this challenge, the brain creates rules to simplify communication and make words easier to say.  For example, some sounds that are produced in the back of the mouth like (/k/ and /g/) are often difficult for kids to say so they simplify it by making a rule to make the sounds in the front of the mouth as it is easier, so “tootie” is substituted for “cookie”. Another common example of phonological processes is final consonant deletion where “dog” becomes “dah” and “cat” becomes “ca”.

There are various types of phonological disorders including:

  • Omissions / deletions – when one or more sounds is omitted or deleted.
  • Substitution – when certain sounds are substituted or replaced within the word.
  • Additions – when extra sounds are added to a word.
  • Distortions – when sounds are changed and distort the word.
  • Syllable-level errors – when a weak syllable word is deleted.

What Are Signs of Speech Sound Disorders – Articulation and Phonology?

Functional speech sound disorders are the umbrella term for articulation and phonological disorders. Though mistakes are common when learning new words and sounds, a disorder occurs when a child reaches a certain age and is still making certain mistakes or when an adult is experiencing difficulty with pronunciation.

Here are some revealing questions to ask yourself:

  • Is the child or adult easily understood by others?
  • Do people perceive your child as being younger because of speech difficulties?
  • How does your child’s vocabulary compare to his/her peer group?
  • Is the child or adult experiencing frustration when trying to communicate?
  • Is your child omitting sounds, substituting sounds or changing sounds when speaking?
  • Is your child having difficulty acquiring reading or spelling skills?

How Can Great Speech Help?

Articulation and phonological disorders are treatable. Early detection and treatment can positively impact your child, both academically and socially. Articulation disorder treatment and therapy for phonological disorders include a developmental approach based on the acquisition of sounds in typically developing children.

It is essential to provide therapy by a licensed speech and language pathologist (SLP) to avoid social stigma and possible reading and writing disorders.

Children, teens and adults respond well to the telespeech model, where therapy is provided in the privacy of the home or office. Flexible schedules, accessibility and an interactive modality help ensure successful and effective therapy.

Please contact us to discuss how a simple screening may provide you with the perfect solution.

“Being pulled out of class for speech therapy was embarrassing. After school therapy interfered with soccer practice and my coach almost threw me off the team. Great Speech helped me correct my lisp and I am now captain of my team.”

Andres B., 15, Delray Beach, Fl