What is a Speech Disorder?Tuesday February 21, 2017
If you are like most people, when you hear the term speech therapy or speech disorder, your first thought is of a child who demonstrates difficulty saying their “r” sound. However, the term speech disorder is much broader than just saying a few sounds correctly.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) defines a speech disorder as difficulty producing speech sounds correctly or fluently, or problems with voice production.
What does that really mean?
There are 3 main areas of speech production: speech sound production, fluency and voice.
- Speech sound production is how a person physically forms sounds
- Examples include articulation disorder, phonological processing disorder, motor speech disorders and apraxia
- Fluency is the rate, smoothness and continuity of sound production
- Stuttering is one example
- Voice is the pitch, quality and volume of the sound produced by the larynx (voice box)
- Examples include vocal fold nodules and polyps, cleft palate
A child may exhibit an impairment in one, two, or all three areas of speech in any combination.
What does a speech disorder look like?
A child with a speech sound disorder may:
- Be difficult to understand
- Substitute one sound for another (“w” for “r”)
- Lateralize their “s” sound also known as a lisp
- Drop sounds or parts of words completely (“boom” for broom or “nana” for banana)
- Distort vowel sounds (“Bah” for Bye or “bahk” for book)
- Sound younger than they are; meaning, they may have typical errors made by young children (“wawa” for water or “bue” for blue) at an older age.
- Demonstrate frustration when the speaker does not understand their message
A child with a fluency disorder may:
- May have pauses in the middle of their words, phrase or sentence
- Repeat a sound or syllable in a word (“I want the b-b-b-book”)
- Repeat a word (“I want the the the the the book”)
- Prolong a sound in a word (“I wwwwant the book”)
- Add in filler words (“I want the uh uh book”)
- Demonstrate physical difficulty or tension when producing a sound (scrunching their face or tightness in their neck and shoulders)
- Make word substitutions to avoid difficult words/sounds (“I www need the book”)
- May demonstrate a very fast or irregular rate of speech
- May sound disorganized by stopping, restarting or changing ideas while speaking
A child with a voice disorder may:
- Sound hoarse, rough or scratchy
- Sound overly breathy
- Sound monotone
- Sound as though their nose is being pinched shut while speaking
- Produce sounds through their nose/air escapes their nose while speaking
- Use an unusual pitch or change pitch in unusual ways while speaking
- Lose their voice frequently after speaking for a short time
- Choke frequently when drinking or eating
Are a speech disorder and language disorder the same?
While both are considered to fall under the umbrella of a communication disorder, a language disorder is different from a speech disorder. A language disorder is an impairment of our understanding and use of language. A speech disorder is an impairment in our ability to physically produce language.