Articulation refers to physical movements of your tongue, teeth, lips, jaw, and palate that shape the air coming from your vocal folds into the sounds of speech. Articulation disorders are ‘motor-based’ errors that occur when an individual has difficulty producing one or a few sounds with no discernible pattern. Some examples are “wabbit” for “rabbit,” “thoap” for “soap,” or “see” with a “slushy” sounding ‘s.’
Phonology refers to the rules that guide the sound system of a language, including the structure and sequencing of sounds in a word. A phonological disorder is observed when an individual has difficulty learning or applying the phonological rules or a language that organize the sounds in the brain. Some examples are “dut” for “duck,” “pay” for “play,” or “ephant” for “elephant.:”
Between articulation and phonology, obstacles can arise between Point A of thinking a word, to Point B of saying it clearly and intelligibly. Deficits in speech sound production can be organic, with a clear cause - such as a cleft palate, hearing disorder, cerebral palsy, or brain injury - or functional, where the cause is unknown. “Speech sound disorders” refers to many different and potentially co-occurring difficulties in motor production, perception, or phonological representation of speech sounds. The outcome of a speech sound disorder is often less clear speech, which disrupts how well the speaker’s message is understood.
Speech sound disorders, including articulation and phonological disorders, are treatable with the support of a skilled speech-language pathologist (SLP). Both children and adults can benefit from telepractice, where one-on-one sessions with detailed cues, visuals, and exercises are individualized by an SLP. The earlier the intervention, the better, as having the ability to be clearly understood by others can greatly impact a child’s social and academic development.
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