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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Jeret

Understanding the difference between Articulation and Phonological Disorders: A Guide for Caregivers

Updated: Feb 8


Speech therapy for articulation disorders in Wilmette, Illinois by Stephanie Jeret SLP

Speech is an imperative and crucial aspect of human communication, serving as a bridge that connects individuals and facilitates the exchange of ideas, emotions, and information.  Not everyone is easily understood.  Some individuals struggle with articulation and phonological disorders, making the exchange of their ideas, emotions, and information more challenging for the listener to understand.  This can cause speakers to become frustrated and avoid conversing with others.   


In this article, you will learn about:


The Difference between Articulation and Phonological Disorders

It is common for young children to not be able to produce every sound in their language from birth.  Typically, children acquire specific sounds at certain ages.  If they do not acquire these sounds during a specific time frame they may be diagnosed with an articulation disorder.


Articulation is the process of producing speech sounds with the articulators–the lips, tongue, teeth, hard palate, soft palate, etc.  

An articulation disorder impacts an individual’s ability to produce certain sounds, resulting in challenges communicating clearly and effectively.  


All children are born with phonological processes which is a systematic sound change that impacts a class of sounds or a sound sequence.  These processes are eventually suppressed as the child gets older.  If they are not suppressed, they are called phonological disorders.


Simply, an articulation disorder occurs when an individual has challenges forming speech sounds properly (not being able to produce the /p/ sound), while a phonological disorder occurs when an individual can produce the sounds correctly, but not in every position of the word.


Causes of an articulation and phonological disorder


Speech therapy for articulation disorders in Lincolnwood, Illinois by Stephanie Jeret SLP

Articulation and phonological disorders are classified as functional speech sound disorders. The cause for functional speech sound disorders are not known; however, some risk factors include:


  • Gender - the incidence of speech sound disorders are higher in males than females

  • Pre- and perinatal problems - factors such as infections during pregnancy, complications during delivery, preterm delivery, and low birthweight has been shown to be associated with delays in speech sound acquisition and speech sound disorders.

  • Family history- children who have parents or siblings with speech and/or language challenges are more likely to have a speech disorder

  • Hearing loss has been associated with impaired speech development


What signs should a parent or caregiver be attentive to if they have reservations about their child’s speech development.


While it is typical for children to be unable to produce most/all sound the moment they are born, there are set ages at which they should acquire specific English sounds.


I have included a speech-sound development chart, but it is important to note that there are variations in speech-sound development.

Speech-sound development chart, does my child need speech therapy, speech therapy in Lincolnwood, Illinois

Some red flags that parents can look out for in terms of articulation disorders include:

  • Difficulty producing certain consonants or vowels consistently beyond the expected age, as noted above.

  • Limited sound repertoire, making speech less intelligible.

  • Frustration or avoidance when producing certain sounds or words.

Some red flags that parents can look out for in terms of phonological disorders include:

  • Consistent errors in sound patterns, such as substituting one class of sounds for another (e.g., dropping the final consonant off all words).

  • Impaired speech intelligibility, making it more difficult to understand the intended message (often more unintelligible than in an articulation disorder).

  • Frustration or avoidance when speaking.


When to seek help from a speech-language pathologist

If you notice any red flags above, your child’s speech is not easily understood by others, or they are not hitting their speech milestones, it may be time to consult a speech-language pathologist. 


How will a speech-language pathologist evaluate my child's speech?


Speech-language pathologist for articulation with kids in Wilmette, Illinois.

In order to assess a child’s speech, a speech-language pathologist may employ any or all of the following:


  • Case history - An SLP will ask detailed questions about the child’s medical, developmental, cognitive, and family history. This information can be helpful in identifying specific risk factors a child may have for a speech-sound disorder.

  • Oral peripheral exam - SLP's will assess the child’s oral-motor skills, such as the strength and range of motion of the muscles in the tongue, lips, and jaw. This is done to rule out any anatomical abnormalities that may cause an articulation disorder.

  • Articulation assessment - An SLP will evaluate each all speech sounds in isolation, syllables, and in the beginning, middle, and ending of words, as well as in phrases or sentences.

  • Phonological assessment - SLP's will analyze the data received from the articulation assessment and determine whether the articulation errors are consistent with a phonological disorder, articulation disorder, or both.

  • Receptive language assessments - SLP's may assess the receptive language of a child. In other words, the SLP will evaluate how much the child understands.

  • Expressive language assessments - SLP's may assess the expressive language of a child. In other words, the SLP will evaluate how much and how efficiently the child uses language.


Treatment options for articulation disorders

Most commonly, Traditional articulation therapy is used for articulation disorders.

This treatment focuses on producing the target sound in isolation and once achieved moves onto producing the target sound in syllables, then words, then phrases, then sentences. Once the sound is produced in sentences, the therapy focuses on ensuring the sound is generalized to spontaneous speech


Treatment options for phonological disorders

  1. Minimal pairs- this type of therapy, pairs of words are introduced that are similar in all ways except one particular sound. Verbally producing these pairs is a treatment option to eliminating a target phonological process.   

  2. Cycles approach - this type of approach, targets a different process ever 1-2 weeks and 2-4 process are targeted within a cycle 

  3. Phonological awareness training - this method assists a child in developing an awareness of the sound structure of a word.  When using this method, a child may be asked to identify the number of syllables in a word, break up words into sounds, or combine sounds to form words


Tips for parents who suspect their child has an articulation or phonological disorder


Speech-language pathologist for articulation with kids in Wilmette, Illinois.

  1. Observe and document

    1. Pay attention to your child’s speech patterns and try to identify specific sounds or words that they struggle with- do they struggle with the same sound independent of the position of the word or do they only struggle with a particular sound when it is at the beginning of sounds?

  2. Keep a written record of these sounds and words 

  3. Educate yourself - learn about the typical speech and language development to determine where your child falls on the spectrum

  4. Schedule a consultation with a qualified speech-language pathologist to address your concerns

  5. Encourage communication- as parents, you can establish a language-rich environment for your child.  Surround your child with language activities, such as reading books, engaging in conversation, and playing games that involve verbal communication.


It is important to remember that often, the quicker you start speech therapy, the quicker you will see results.  

  • As a speech-language pathologist, I have seen parents wait until their child was older to address a particular sound.  That means this child had extra opportunities to produce this sound incorrectly.  It may take longer for this child to correctly produce this sound in spontaneous speech because of the wait time.


How Speak with Stephanie Can Help with Articulation and Phonological Disorder Treatment 


Speak with Stephanie LLC is a distinguished speech therapy company specializing in delivering high-quality, in-home speech therapy services to individuals residing in Skokie, Evanston, Wilmette, Lincolnwood, and surrounding areas of Illinois. Additionally, our commitment extends to providing teletherapy services throughout Illinois, New York, and New Jersey.


Our comprehensive range of offerings includes consultations, screenings, evaluations, and individualized speech therapy tailored specifically for children and adults presenting with articulation and phonological disorders. At Speak with Stephanie, we adopt a holistic approach with each client, fostering collaborative efforts to formulate goals that address their unique needs.


Families or individuals seeking treatment for articulation and phonological disorders benefit significantly from engaging with Speak with Stephanie. Our therapy is designed for utmost convenience, and we are affiliated with Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO and Cigna plans.


Specifically, Speak with Stephanie excels in the following areas related to articulation and phonological disorder treatment:

  • Individualized Treatment Plans: Our commitment to personalized care means that we approach each client holistically, rejecting the notion of a one-size-fits-all treatment model.

  • Evidence-Based Treatment Approaches: Our methodology is rooted in evidence-based treatment approaches, ensuring that our interventions are supported by research.

  • Regular Feedback: We prioritize open communication by providing regular, insightful feedback to families, fostering a collaborative and transparent therapeutic process.

  • Collaboration with Families and Teachers: We actively collaborate with everyone involved in the child's well-being, including families, teachers, and related service providers.



Frequently Asked Questions


articulation teletherapy in New York, Manhattan

What is the difference between an articulation and phonological disorder?

An articulation disorder refers to challenges in the physical production of speech sounds whereas a phonological disorder involves difficulties organizing speech sounds into a systematic and rule-based sound system.


A good example I like to give is a child who can produce the /t/ sound all the time except at the end of words because he always omits the last sound in all words.


Can a child have both a phonological and articulation disorder?

Yes, it is possible for a child to have both an articulation and phonological disorder.


Are there any underlying causes for speech disorders?

Gender, pre- and perinatal problems, family history, and hearing loss have been shown to influence speech-sound disorders.


At what age should a child be able to produce certain sounds correctly?

Please refer to the sound-development chart here.


How can a speech-language pathologist help my child?

A speech-language pathologist will assess, diagnose, and devise and implement an individualized treatment plan for your child to treat articulation and/or phonological disorders.


How long does it typically take for a child to improve with speech therapy?

This often depends on a number of factors including motivation of the child and family, how many sounds/phonological processes the child has, cognition of the child, and length of time this has been going on.


Will my child outgrow their speech difficulties on their own or is intervention necessary?

Some children do outgrow their speech challenges; however, predicting which children those are is more complex.


 

About the author:

Stephanie Jeret is a Speech-Language Pathologist and the owner of Speak with Stephanie LLC. She obtained her Bachelor's and Master's degree from the City University of New York. She has practiced speech therapy in a number of settings including outpatient rehabilitation, telepractice, skilled nursing facilities, schools, and a private practice. She specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of a variety of communication disorders including articulation disorders, receptive/expressive language disorders, and fluency disorders. Information is available by emailing her at stephanie@speakwithstephanie.com or by visiting www.speakwithstephanie.com.







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