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speech sound disorder

Finding Clarity: A Parent’s Guide to Speech Sound Disorders in Children

Speech sound disorders refer to an individual having trouble saying sounds correctly. These disorders can affect individuals of all ages, but are most commonly found in children. In fact, a large part of an SLP’s caseload involves speech sound disorders. This article focuses on the two most common speech sound disorders: phonological and articulation disorders. If you are interested in learning more about childhood apraxia of speech, check out this post.

Understanding Speech Sound Disorders

Speech sound disorders refer to difficulties in producing speech sounds accurately. These challenges can manifest in various ways, such as substituting one sound for another, omitting sounds in words, or distorting sounds. 

It’s important to acknowledge that some speech sound errors are appropriate given your child’s age. For example, it’s still developmentally appropriate for a child to say “wabbit” for “rabbit” at 5 years old. However as your child gets older, this substitution error is no longer appropriate. I recommend reaching out to an SLP if you have concerns regarding what sounds your child should be saying. As you’ll learn, early identification and treatment of speech sound errors is crucial.

The two most common speech sound disorders

1) Articulation Disorders

Articulation disorders involve difficulties in producing specific speech sounds. Examples include substituting “w” for “r” (e.g., saying “won” for “run”) or omitting sounds (e.g., saying “pider” instead of “spider”). Children can also distort sounds (sounding “slushy” and often appear in the “ch” and “s” sounds). 

2) Phonological Disorders

Phonological disorders involve difficulties with the sound patterns or rules that govern speech. Individuals with phonological disorders may exhibit patterns of errors, affecting their ability to be understood. For instance, they may substitute all sounds produced at the back of the mouth with those produced at the front or delete all final consonants. 

An SLP is able to differentiate between the two disorders (as well as other motor-based disorders not covered in this post, such as childhood apraxia of speech and dysarthria).

Assessment of Speech Sound Disorders

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) play an essential role in assessing speech sound disorders. Assessment involves a comprehensive evaluation to determine the nature and severity of the disorder. SLPs use a range of assessment methods, including an oral mechanism exam, standardized tests, dynamic assessment and informal speech samples. These evaluations identify specific speech sounds or patterns to differentiate between an articulation and phonological disorder.

Treatment for Speech Sound Disorders

Speech sound disorders can be treated through evidence-based approaches. As an SLP, I provide intervention based on your child’s needs, goals, and type of speech sound disorder. Some common treatment approaches for articulation disorders and phonological disorders include:

Traditional Articulation Therapy: This approach focuses on teaching correct production of specific speech sounds. SLPs use drills, practice, and repetition to improve articulation. 

Phonological Therapy: Phonological therapy addresses underlying sound patterns and rules. SLPs work with individuals to target and modify error patterns to improve overall clarity.

With our toddlers and preschoolers, child-led therapy looks a lot like play! At the elementary age, I incorporate games with a bit more drill as our kids’ can maintain attention for a longer period of time. Speech therapy should be FUN!

Collaboration: SLPs collaborate with educators, parents, and other professionals to create a supportive environment for individuals with speech sound disorders. Consistent practice and reinforcement across different settings maximize progress and generalization of skills. We want our kids to produce correct speech sounds, not only during therapy, but at the dinner table and with their friends.

Importance of Early Intervention

Early identification and intervention of speech sound errors is vital. Prompt intervention can help mitigate the impact of these disorders on children’s social interactions. Many of our younger children aren’t always aware that their errors make them sound different, so we often get a lot more “buy-in” to therapy. However, as our children grow older, they become more aware of their errors and sometimes struggle with confidence. As an SLP and parent, I absolutely do not want our children’s confidence to plummet due to speech sound errors. Early intervention is crucial.

Early intervention of these errors also allows the SLP to address speech sound challenges before they become hard-to-break habits, and therefore improving chances of successful treatment.

Speech sound disorders can impact a child’s ability to communicate effectively, especially as a child gets older. Through early identification and tailored treatment, your child can make progress, enhancing both their clarity and confidence!


If you have any questions regarding speech therapy, please feel free to contact me. If you are interested in speech-language therapy and live in Frederick County, Maryland, or Northern Loudoun County, Virginia, I’d love to connect through a free consultation!

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