Articulation Disorder in Toddlers: Types, Causes & Diagnosis

Speech Sound Disorders in Young Children

Speech sound disorders can be treated correctly if detected early. Know the causes of speech sound disorders in toddlers as well as the symptoms to watch out for, its diagnosis and subsequent treatment. The sooner the disorder is identified and treated, the more effectively will a child overcome it.

As your toddler grows, walking, communicating are just a few milestones he crosses. However, if he has difficulty at any stage, it’s important to take note and consult a doctor. Speech sound disorder is one condition that can be seen in growing toddlers.

Understanding Speech Sound Disorder

Slow or difficult development of a child’s speech beyond a certain age is called a speech sound disorder.All children make mistakes while learning to communicate, however hose who make specific ones repeatedly over time may be suffering from speech sound disorder.

Types of Speech Sound Disorders in Toddlers

Speech sound disorders are classified basis the kind of speech impairment. These are:

1. Articulation disorder in toddlers

Inability to pronounce or articulate certain words. Example, the child says ‘thebra’ instead of zebra or ‘wivvers’ instead or rivers.

2. Phonological process disorder in toddlers

Inability to speak, read and write. It’s usually detected in children beyond 4 years.

3. Motor speech disorders

These are disorders that involve the brain’s motor system.They include childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) or developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD), and dysarthrias in children.

Causes of Speech Sound Disorders

While most causes of  speech sound disorders remain unknown the following can cause the same:

  • Physical abnormalities like cleft lip
  • Brain injury
  • Hearing loss
  • Neurological disorders
  • Developmental disability

Symptoms of Speech Sound Disorders

1. Articulation disorder

  • Difficulty in articulating certain word and sounds
  • Pronouncing certain sounds differently like substituting ‘s’ with ‘th’, t with ‘f’ etc.

2. Phonological process disorder

  • Poor speech intelligibility
  • Difficulty in learning, using and understanding words, word meanings and sentences.

3. Motor speech disorder

  • CAS/DVD:
    • Searching for right articulatory gesture
    • Substituting words
    • Pronouncing same word differently
  • Dysarthrias:Evident difficulty in speech is the major characteristic of this disorder.The child’s speech mechanism such as the larynx, lips, tongue, palate and jaw may be weak, have poor coordination or may even be paralyzed.

Diagnosing Speech Sound Disorders

A speech-language pathologist will have the child undergo tests for sound errors. A physical examination determines the health of the oral muscles. Evaluation and constant monitoring of language development are part of the diagnosis as well.

Assessment and Treatment of Speech Sound Disorders

1. Articulation disorder

Traditional articulation therapy is a commonly used method to treat speech sound disorders in psychology. It includes:

  • Behavioural learning techniques
  • Teaching children new sounds instead of error or omitted sounds
  • Repeating until the new sound is learned and accepted by the child.

2. Phonological process disorder

Phonological therapy aims at improving the cognitive skills of the child and includes:

  • Core vocabulary therapy
  • Cycles therapy (patterns intervention)
  • Imagery therapy
  • Metaphon
  • Minimal pair therapies
  • Parents and child together (PACT)
  • Phoneme awareness therapy

3. Motor speech disorders

These disorders are genetic, hence treatment is also based on traditional articulation therapy. Speech sound disorders in 15-month-old babies can usually be treated effectively with early diagnosis and treatment.

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