Do you have a little person in your life that is hard to understand? At Peninsula Speech Pathology Services we have a dedicated and experienced team to help children achieve their articulation goals!

What is articulation?

Articulation refers to the production of individual sounds required for speech. In the English language we have 44 sounds in total – much more than our the alphabet! In order to make these sounds we use our ‘articulators’ which are our teeth, lips, tongue, palate and vocal cords.

Amongst our 44 sounds, we have 24 consonant sounds and 20 vowel sounds.

Consonant sounds require a lot of coordinated input from our articulators, with each sound requiring the movement of one or more of our teeth, lips, tongue and palate.

  • We use our lips to produce the ‘p’ and ‘b’ sounds.
  • We use our tongue and palate to produce our ‘k’ and g’ sounds.

We also have ‘voiceless’ sounds, where our vocal cords are not used, and ‘voiced’ sounds where our vocal cords are used.

  • ‘p’ is a voiceless sound where the vocal cords are not used.
  • ‘b’ is a voices sound where the vocal cords are used.

Vowel sounds require our mouth to move into precise positions to achieve an accurate sound.

  • ‘ee’ as in ‘tree’ is produced with our mouth in a smiling position.
  • ‘oo’ as in ‘too’ is produced with our mouth in a rounded position.

With so many sounds to learn as well as language, it is common for children to have errors as they are learning to talk!

What is a speech sound disorder?

Children are learning so many new words in the early years of childhood. It is common for them to make mistakes as they learn these new words, which can make them hard to understand. A speech sound disorder occurs when a child continues to make these mistakes past a certain age; there are age ranges for when children are developmentally expected to say certain sounds accurately. There are different types of disorders depending on the type and level of the sound breakdown.

Articulation disorder: An articulation disorder involves difficulty using our ‘articulators’ to make individual sounds. As a result, sounds can be substituted, left off, added or changed.

  • A child saying “nana” for “banana”
  • A child saying “wabbit” for “rabbit”

Phonological disorder: A phonological process disorder involves difficulty with a pattern of sounds. It is considered to be part of normal development, however is deemed a disorder if it persists past a certain age. It involves all sounds produced in one area of the mouth being substituted for all sounds made in another area. For example:

  • A child substituting all sounds made at the back of the mouth like “k” and “g” for those at the front of the mouth like “t” and “d”
    • A child saying “tup” for “cup” and “dirl” for “girl”.

There are also much more sever speech sound disorders known as motor speech disorders. This is due to the brain having difficulty performing the planning and movements required for speech. The child knows what they want to say, however their brain has difficulty coordinating the movements required to say the words accurately. In children, this is called Childhood Apraxia of Speech and is far less common than the afore mentioned speech sound disorders.

How do I know if my child has a speech sound disorder?

A Speech Pathologist will be able to assess your child using a range of assessments to evaluate your child’s speech. They will be able to determine if there is a speech sound disorder present and will be able to develop goals guided by your family and assessment results.

What will the therapy involve?

After having assessed your child’s speech and establishing goals with the family, therapy begins! Sounds are usually treated in order of their acquisition. The sounds treated first would be the early developing lip sounds usually established by 3 (eg. m, p, b), then moving on to the palate sounds usually established by 5, and finally the sounds that require much more complex movements by 7.

When treating sounds in therapy, we work through a hierarchy and ensure the sound is established at each level before moving on:

  1. Isolation – ‘s’
  2. Syllables – ‘see’
  3. Words – ‘sun’
  4. Phrase – ‘my sock’
  5. Sentence – ‘I have a seat’
  6. Conversation – ‘I like to play in the sand at the beach when it is sunny.’
  7. Generalisation – Sound has generalised across a range of contexts and environments.

We may begin working on the sound at the beginning of words, middle of words or at the end of the word depending on whether your child can produce the sound in some positions but not others. The aim of therapy is to ensure they are able to say the sound in all positions of words and to have this generalised across a range of contexts and environments!

Part two – How I can help my child at home