Resources: Speech Disorders

What is articulation?

Articulation is the process by which sounds, syllables, and words are formed when your tongue, jaw, teeth, lips, and palate alter the air stream coming from the vocal folds.

What is an articulation problem?

A person has an articulation problem when he or she produces sounds, syllables, or words incorrectly so that listeners do not understand what is being said or pay more attention to the way the words sound than to what they mean.

Is an articulation problem the same as "baby talk"?

An articulation problem sometimes sounds like baby talk because many very young children do mispronounce sounds, syllables, and words. But words that sound cute when mispronounced by young children interfere with the communication of older children or adults. Older children and adults have so many severe errors that their articulation problems are very different from "baby talk." 

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What are some types of sound errors?

Most errors fall into one of three categories: omissions, substitutions, or distortions. An example of an omission is "at" for "hat" or "oo" for "shoe." An example of a substitution is the use of "w" for "r", which makes "rabbit" sound like "wabbit," or the substitution of "th" for "s" so that "sun" is pronounced "thun." When the sound is said inaccurately but sounds something like the intended sound, it is called a distortion.

What causes an articulation problem?

Articulation problems may result from physical causes, such as cerebral palsy, cleft palate, or hearing loss, or may be related to other problems in the mouth, such as dental problems. However, most articulation problems occur in the absence of any obvious physical disability. The cause of these so-called functional articulation problems may be faulty learning of speech sounds. 

Is an accent an articulation problem?

Articulation is the process by which sounds, syllables, and words are formed when your tongue, jaw, teeth, lips, and palate alter the air stream coming from the vocal folds. 

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Can ear problems during infancy have any effect on late sound development?

Children learn their speech sounds by listening to the speech around them. This learning begins very early in life. If children have frequent ear problems during this important listening period, they may fail to learn some speech sounds.

Will a child outgrow a functional articulation problem?

A child's overall speech pattern will usually become more understandable as he or she matures, but some children will need direct training to eliminate all articulation errors. The exact speech pattern of the individual child will determine the answer to this question.

Do children learn all sounds at once?

Sounds are learned in an orderly sequence. Some sounds, such as "p," "m," and "b," are learned as early as 3 years of age. Other sounds. like "s," "r," and "I," often are not completely mastered until the early school years. Contact us for more information.

At what age should a child be producing all sounds correctly?

Children should make all the sounds of English by 8 years of age. Most sounds are mastered by age 4. Exceptions are R, S, Th and L. Many children learn these sounds much earlier.

How can I help a child pronounce words correctly?

By setting a good example. Don't interrupt or constantly correct the child. Don't let anyone tease or mock (including friends or relatives). Instead, present a good model. Use the misarticulated word correctly with emphasis. If the child says. "That's a big wabbit," you say "Yes, that is a big rabbit. A big white rabbit. Would you like to have a rabbit?"

Can an adult with an articulation problem be helped?

Most articulation problems can be helped regardless of a person's age, but the longer the problem persists, the harder it is to change. Some problems,such as those relating to nerve impulses to the muscles of articulation (dysarthria), are particularly difficult and generally will require a longer period of help than a functional disorder. Other conditions that may influence progress in a child or adult include hearing ability, condition of the oral structures such as the teeth, frequency of help obtained, motivation, intelligence, and cooperation. 

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Who can help?

Contact a speech-language pathologist if you are concerned about speech. A speech-language pathologist is a professional trained at the master's or doctoral level to evaluate and help the child or adult with an articulation problem as well as other speech and/or language disorders. The speech-language pathologist should be certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and/or licensed by the State of New Jersey. The speech-language pathologist can advise whether professional help is indicated and how to arrange for assistance. The speech-language pathologist can also give you guidance or provide services to help prevent or eliminate a problem. Early help is especially important for more severe problems.

Is it important to correct an articulation problem?

When you consider the possible impact an articulation problem may have on one's social, emotional, educational, and/or vocational status, the answer becomes obvious. Our speech is an important part of us. The quality of our lives is affected by the adequacy of our speech. 

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