Understanding Speech-Language Disorders


A child receiving speech-language services in the school may have one or more of these areas of need.  These include:

Voice Disorders: inappropriate pitch, loudness, or voice quality.

Fluency Disorders (stuttering): an abnormal rate of speaking, speech interruptions, and repetition of sounds, words, phrases, or sentences, that interferes with effective communication. 

Students with fluency disorders sometimes shy away from participating in partner work, class discussions, asking questions and socializing with peers.  In therapy, they learn strategies to prevent stuttering,  learn what to do when they stutter, and learn how to deal with negative emotions that they may have about their speech.  The Stuttering Foundation of America has a wealth of information about stuttering.  If you are concerned about your student's/child's fluency please contact me.

Articulation Disorders: omissions, substitutions, or distortions of sounds.   

Young children may be difficult to understand  and older children can may become self-concious about their speech, which interferes with social development.  Learning reading and writing skills can also be hindered by articualtion disorders.  Therapy for articulation errors teaches the student about the errored sound and how to produce it.  Therapy usually required drill, drill, drill to correct the errors.  For this reason, home practice is encouraged.

Children are learning speech sounds throughout their preschool and early elementary years.  As a general rule, by age 3 a child should be understood most of the time.  Then, as they mature more and more sounds become correct.  The "r" sound is often the last sound to develop by about 2nd grade.  Developmental chart, such as one from Iowa/Nebraska shows what sounds are mastered at what age.  Although development charts are useful, they do not tell the whole story as some sound errors are considered typical and some are not.  For example, if your 7 year old is omitting "s" and saying "oup" for "soup" this would not be considered normal for his age.  But, if he is saying the "s" slightly dental "sthoup" for soup, this is considered typical.  For this reason, if you have any concerns about your child's production of speech sounds, ask his/her teacher or contact me to have his/her speech screened.

Language Disorders:  difficulty with understanding and using langauge effectively and includes at least one of the following: phonology , semantics, morphology, pragmatics, or syntax. 

Sometimes a student's language disorder is obvious by the use of  incorrect word and sentence structures, difficulties recalling words, or an overall difficulty with communicating.  But many times, a language disorder is hidden and sometimes does not become evident until the student is asked to engage in activities such as understanding text, reading or writing that require good langauge skills.

A student can have difficulty in any of the language areas (phonology, semantics, morphology, pragmatics or syntax) either receptively (i.e. understanding), expressively (i.e. using) or both. For a list of grade specific language skills go to American Speech-Hearing Association

 Phonology  refers to a difficulty with speech sound rules and includes phonemic awareness skills such as rhyming, segmenting words, blending sounds.  It is similiar to an articulation disorder. 

Semantics referes to difficulty with meaning of words/language.  Students with semantic disorders may have difficulty:  learning vocabulary, relating words together, retrieving words, generating a sequencial/organized story, and  summarizing.

Morphology is the smallest unit of meaning and deals with word formations.  Students with difficulty in this area may have difficulty understanding or using morphemes such as preposistions, pronouns, articles (a, the), word endings (-ing, -ed, -s, -er, -est, -ly), prefixes and suffixes.  This area is closely related to another area, syntax.

Syntax includes the rules that tell how words are combined to form sentences.  Students with difficulty in syntax may use incorrect grammar, have simple sentence structures, have difficulty understading the parts of a sentence, or have difficulty with word order. 

Pragmatics referes to the use of language in conversation and social situations.  Students with pragmatic difficulties may have difficulty with converstion skills such as maintaining topics, initiating conversations, judging social appropriateness of utterances, understanding humor, interpreting body language, or using appropriate body language.

Still confused?  Yes, this is a lot of information!  For more resources, I recommend going to the American Speech-Hearing Association website or contacting me if you have any questions.