Learn More about Communication Problems

Learn More about Communication Problems in School Aged Children

Communication is the exchange of feelings, ideas, thoughts, and wants. It forms the basis for how a person learns about the world around them and interacts with family, friends, and co-workers. The majority of people develop communication skills that are used over a life time with little apparent thought or effort. However, for some people communication breaks down. Problems communicating related to hearing loss of difficulties with language, articulation, fluency, or voice is called a communication disorder. 14 million Americans have a communication disorder and one in 10 families are affected in the United States (ASHA, 2002).



The cause of a communication disorder may be related to inadequate speech and language models, hearing loss, physical impairment such as cleft lip/palate, or vocal abuse and misuse. Frequently, the cause of a communication disorder is unknown.


Common Types of Problems in School-Age Students

  • Language Disorder: A child who has problems with language may demonstrate a marked slowness in the development of vocabulary and grammar necessary for communicating effectively. The child may have poor speaking abilities, including problems with sentence structures and use of word endings. He/she may also experience problems following directions or varying language style to fit a variety of social situations.
  • Articulation Disorder: A child who has problems with articulation may demonstrate speech sound errors that range from a mild lisp to nearly unintelligible speech. Common errors include substituting one sound for another ('wed' for red), omitting sounds ('winow" for window), and distorting or adding sounds ('chlair' for chair).
  • Fluency/Stuttering Disorder: Speech is considered disfluent when one word does not flow rhythmically and quickly into the next. A child who stutters may demonstrate abnormal hesitations, repetitions (ba-ba-bat), or prolongations (bbbaaat) of sounds and syllables. Unusual facial or body movements may also accompany attempts to speak.
  • Voice Disorder: Voice is a problem when it distracts listeners from what is being said or when it seems inappropriate based on the child's age or sex. A child who has problems may have a voice that: 1) aches, 2) stops or 'squeaks' while speaking, 3) sounds 'stuffed up' most of the time, 4) has to be used with more effort to get sound out, or 5) becomes weak or tired after about 30 minutes of use.

When to be Concerned

A communication problem may be suspected when a child develops particular speech and language skills at a significantly slower than average rate or in an irregular pattern. As a parent, you are the best person to look for signs that suggest problems. Listen as your child talks, observe how he/she interacts with others, and listen to his/her friends. After awhile, you will be able to compare and form a fairly accurate judgement of your child's communication compared to others. Let your impressions of whether or not your child's communication sounds normal be your guide. If you sense that your child's communication attempts are different, don't be afraid to request or independently arrange for an evaluation. Early attention is important. Treating communication problems early on may prevent the child from falling behind social and academically (ASHA, 2005)


Help Available

If you are concerned about the presence of a communication disorder, contact a speech language pathologist (SLP) in your area. The SLP will evaluate your child's communication skills to determine if problems exist and if so, decide on the best way to treat these problems. An SLP is a professional educated in the study of human communication , its development, and its disorders. SLPs work with people of all ages and provide professional services in many types of facilities such as public and private schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and private practice. An SLP will have a master or doctoral degree, hold national Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech Language Hearing Association, and/or a license from the state in which he or she practices. For additional information about communication disorders or help locating an SLP in your area, contact the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), 10801 Rockville Pike, MD 20852. Call 1-800-638-8255 or visit thee ASHA website at www.asha.org


Copyright 2006 by Slosson Education Publishing and Sarah Peterson protects informaiton contained in this webpage. All rights reserved. No parts may be reproduced without prior written consent from publisher and/or author. Peterson, Sarah (2006). A Resource for the School-Based Speech Language Pathologist. Aurora, NY: Slosson Education Publishing.