May 21, 2014


Identifying Articulation and Phonological Disorders in Children

Did you know that babies are born with the ability to learn and produce sounds of all languages?

Studies have shown that during the babbling stage – around 6 to 8 months of age – babies can produce sounds of languages they have never even heard.

As sounds are produced, those that have meaning in the parent’s language are imitated and reinforced, while sounds that don’t apply to the native language are diminished and eventually phased out.

As the baby learns which sound combinations result in a positive reaction from family members, she will practice those patterns in the form of vocal play.

Soon, the combinations become longer, more complex and intentional.

This is the typical pattern of development. However, due to an articulation or phonological disorder, sometimes the development of speech sounds does not follow this pattern.

To help you identify whether your child is experiencing typical speech sound development, or if she may have an articulation or phonological disorder, our south Houston therapy team shares these common signs:

Typical Development

  • Simple errors. Errors that don’t interfere with the ability to understand the message.Example: “I see a tat/cat.”
  • Inconsistent errors.
  • Sounds that develop at later ages. A 2-year-old who substitutes “wabbit” for “rabbit” ortop”for “stop” will likely develop the sounds appropriately.

Articulation Disorder

  • Motor weakness. Weakness controlling the lips, tongue or jaw.
  • Distorted hearing due to fluid in the ears.
  • Inability to imitate sounds correctly.
  • Difficulty mastering sounds at later ages. A 7-year-old who has difficulty mastering one or more sounds, including /f, k, l, ch, r, sh/.

Phonological Disorder

  • Very difficult to understand, even by caregivers.
  • Unusual substitutions or omissions of sounds or syllables. Examples: “pit” instead of “fish”, “Ah, I an ooie” instead of “Mom, I want a cookie.”
  • Inability to master at least 50 percent of sounds by 4 years old.
  • Has difficulty with how sounds are made.

If you think your child may have an articulation or phonological disorder, contact a qualified speech-language pathologist for a complete speech evaluation and treatment plan.

To learn about our pediatric therapy services for children in Texas, visit our website.

Angela Gullett, M.Ed., CCC-SLP
Therapy Director, South Houston