Speech Sound Disorders

Speech sound disorders (SSD) is a term used to describe any difficulty with perception, motor production, or phonological representation of speech sounds or segments.

Approximately 8-9% of young children exhibit a speech sound disorder. Speech sound disorders can be caused by an underlying motor, neurological, structural, and/or sensory abnormality, although many times, speech sound disorders do not have a known cause.

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Articulation Disorder

Articulation disorder describes errors such as distortions and substitutions that involve a deficit in motor production of individual speech sounds. For example, a child may produce a distorted “s” sound by interdentalizing or lateralizing the production. Or a child may have a distorted or weak “r” or “l” production (“wabbit” for “rabbit” OR “ca” for “car”).

Phonological Impairments

Phonological impairments involve a predictable, rule-based error pattern that affect many sounds and groups of sounds. Phonological disorders are not caused by deficits to the motor system, but rather deficits to the linguistic system. For example, a child may substitute the front sounds “t” and “d” for the back sounds “k” and “g” as in “tat” for “cat” and “doe” for “go”. Other examples of a phonological impairment would be deleting final consonants (“bye” for “bite”), stopping of fricatives (“tun” for “sun”) or consonant cluster reduction (“top” for “stop”).

Signs & Symptoms

  • Omissions/deletions: “pay” for “page”, “poon” for “spoon”
  • Substitutions: “ship” for “chip” or “wion” for “lion”
  • Additions: “puhlay” for “play”
  • Distortions: lateral or interdental “s”
  • Syllable-level errors: “ephant” for “elephant”

Causes & Risk Factors

  • Speech sound disorders are more common in boys than girls
  • Prenatal and perinatal risks include maternal stress or infections during pregnancy, complications during delivery, pre-term delivery and low birth weight.
  • Children who have other family members (parents or siblings) with a history of speech sound disorders are at an increased risk of having a speech sound disorder.
  • Persistent middle ear infections (otitis media) is associated with speech sound disorder.

How We Can Help

Speech-language pathologists screen, assess, diagnose, and treat individuals with speech sound disorders. Our role also includes:

  • Providing prevention information to those at risk for speech sound disorders
  • Recognizing that children with SSD are at an increased risk for later language and literacy problems and providing appropriate early intervention.
  • Conducting comprehensive assessments of speech, language, and communication
  • Referring and collaborating with other professionals to rule out other conditions, determine underlying causes and provide multidisciplinary services.
  • Developing appropriate treatment plans and implementing evidence-based treatment approaches for functional outcomes.