• Articulation and Speech-Sound Disorders

    Though many of us make the movements of speech without thinking twice, speech is a very complex physical feat. Coordination of the tongue, teeth, lips, soft palate, and other articulators is needed to shape air from your lungs into speech sounds. 

    Mispronouncing words is a natural part of a child's speech development. Children gain more control of their articulators as they grow, and their speech sounds gradually become more "adult-like" with time. This is an ongoing process in early childhood, and each child learns at their own rate.

    Certain sounds tend to emerge sooner than others. It may be developmentally appropriate for a child to make errors on sounds that develop later. For example, it's not unusual for a 3-year-old to have difficulty saying R sounds - R sound errors are developmentally appropriate for a 3-year-old.

    When speech sound errors persist beyond the age when most same-age peers have outgrown them, we may be seeing...

    • Articulation disorder: individual speech sound errors
    • Phonological disorder: patterns of speech sound errors affecting multiple sounds

    When do we consider school-based speech services?

    When speech errors make it difficult for a student to fully participate in their general education classroom, school-based intervention may be considered. This can look like...

    • Significant difficulty being understood by peers and adults
    • Speech errors reflected in spelling / when sounding out words
    • Avoidance of speaking situations
    • Increasing frustration when they are not understood
    • Difficulty connecting socially with peers

    What does speech therapy for articulation involve?

    • Students practice hearing the difference between their target sound and error sounds.

    • Students receive instruction to adjust their articulators and change their speech sounds.

    • Students practice internal awareness to understand how their articulators are moving. 

    • Students practice their target sounds in increasingly challenging contexts:
      • In isolation - the sound by itself
      • Single words
      • Short phrases
      • Sentences
      • Connected speech (e.g., short responses, longer conversations)

    Why do SLPs put slash marks around letters? (e.g., /r/, /t/)

    In articulation therapy, we target phonemes (the distinct speech sounds in a language's sound system), not letters from the alphabet. To avoid confusion between spelling and speech sounds, we use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), which assigns one symbol to one sound. Slash marks show we are talking about speech sounds specifically.  

    Each IPA symbol represents a sound:

    • Some letters make different sounds in different words ("a" in rat and rate). 
      • Rat → /ræt/
      • Rate → /rɛɪt/
    • Some letters make the same sounds as other letters ("c" and "k" in cat and king).
      • Cat → /kæt/
      • King → /kɪŋ/
    • Some letter combinations make a single sound ("sh", "th", "ch").
      • Shoe → /ʃu/
      • Thing → /θɪŋ/
      • Chin → /ʧɪn/