3.5 Characteristics of Speech Sound Errors: Speech & Communication Disorders

Jan 12, 2020 | ch3 How Language Impacts the Brain, Cognitive Psychology, Courses

In this lesson, we explore speech sound disorders, which include articulation deficits, phonological process disorder and fluency disorder. Also learn the characteristics of each of these disorders.

Speech Sound Disorders

Have you ever had one of those days when you felt tongue-tied? You knew what you wanted to say, but you just couldn’t get the words out. For many of us, this is just a passing moment, but for some children, it is a daily condition that they cope with. In this lesson, we will discuss speech sound disorders, which include articulation defects, phonological process disorders and fluency disorder.

Speech is our verbal way of communicating, and it has a phonetic level as well as a phonological level. The phonetic level is also known as ‘articulation‘ and is concerned with the act of producing consonants and vowel sounds, while the phonological level is concerned with how the brain organizes the speech sounds into patterns.

Articulation Defects

An articulation defect is a speech sound disorder that affects the phonetic level. Children with this defect will have difficulty saying certain vowels and consonants. Articulation defects are common in children and often are not permanent conditions. Articulation defects can be caused by hearing loss, allergies or anatomical problems and are typically detected in children who are between the ages of five and eight.

There are four different articulation errors that can be made when producing speech sounds: Substitutions,Omissions, Distortions and Additions. An easy way to remember these is to use the acronym SODA.

  • A speech sound error of the substitution type means that one sound is replicated for another sound. For example, ‘w’ is substituted for ‘r,’ so that ‘rabbit’ sounds like ‘wabbit.’
  • A speech sound error of the omission type means that a sound in the word is omitted – for example, ‘bown ake’ for ‘brown rake.’
  • A speech sound error of the distortion type means that a sound is produced in an unfamiliar way. Lisp sounds are an example of this error. A child with a lisp trying to say ‘sun’ might end up saying ‘sssun.’
  • A speech sound error of the addition type means that an extra sound is inserted within the word – for example, ‘buhlack horse’ for ‘black horse.’

Phonological Process Disorder

The palate of the mouth is involved in disorders such as velar fronting and backing

Phonology is the study of how the act of articulation is organized neurologically. A phonological process disorder is a type of speech sound error that involves patterns of sound errors. This disorder is on the phonological level because it involves the way the brain organizes and processes consonants and vowels into sounds. There are many phonological process disorders; however, two common ones are substitution errors known as fronting and backing.

Fronting is also known as velar fronting. ‘Velar’ refers to the palate of the mouth, and this pattern occurs when any consonant that should be made in the back of the mouth is substituted by another consonant that is made in the front of the mouth. For example, a child will substitute all of the sounds that are made in the back of their mouth, like ‘k’ and ‘g,’ for those sounds that are made in the front of the mouth, like ‘t’ and ‘d.’ They will say ‘tup’ for ‘cup’ and ‘dot’ for ‘got.’

Backing is just the opposite of fronting. This speech sound error occurs when the sounds that should be made in the front of the mouth are made in the back. For example, a child will substitute the letter ‘b’ – formed by two lips coming together in the front of their mouth – with the letter ‘g,’ which is made in the back of their mouth, so that ‘bumblebee’ becomes ‘gumblegee.’

It is interesting to note that a child with a phonological process disorder may be able to hear the sound distinctions in other people’s voices but is unaware of making this distortion him or herself.

Fluency Disorder

If an individual isn’t able to speak effortlessly, automatically and smoothly, he or she is said to have a fluency disorder. People with a fluency disorder are able to articulate all the speech sounds correctly, and their brains also organize the sounds correctly into words. However, their distortion comes from not being able to speak without frequent starts and stops.

Stuttering is the common term used for fluency disorder. The hallmarks of this disorder are disfluencies (or disruptions) in the production of speech sounds. There are many different types of disfluencies; however, two of the most common ones are syllable repetition and prolongation.

An example of syllable repetition is when the child has difficulty moving from the first letter of the word to the remaining sounds in the word. For instance, ‘W-w-w-what did you say?’ In this example, the ‘w’ sound is repeated three times, and on the fourth attempt, the child is able to say the complete word.

An example of prolongation is when a child is having difficulty moving from the first letter in the word to the remaining sounds in the word. For example, ‘Sssssssee you at lunch.’ In this example, the ‘s’ sound is said one time continuously until the child is able to complete the word.

Lesson Summary

In summary, many children have difficulty pronouncing words when they are first learning to speak; nevertheless, by the time the child is five years old, most of their words should be understood. If the child is not able to speak clearly, he or she is said to produce speech sound errors. One of the most common types of speech sound errors is fluency disorder, otherwise known as stuttering. Stuttering disrupts the rhythmic flow of speech so that the words are not spoken effortlessly. Many children outgrow this fluency disorder; however, many children do not and continue this disorder into adulthood.

Although children with articulation and phonological process disorders can both make substitution errors, the origin of their errors are different. With articulation disorders, the child is having difficulty with the act of producing consonants and vowel sounds. There are four different articulation errors that can be made when producing speech sound errors, and SODA is a great way to remember them: Substitutions, Omissions, Distortions and Additions.

On the other hand, children with phonological disorders do not have difficulty with the act of producing sounds; rather, their brain incorrectly organizes how the sounds should be made into words. In this case, the brain tells the mouth to move in such a way as to produce the wrong word. For example, a child will think he is producing the words correctly, but what comes out of his mouth is a substitution of the actual word. He will say ‘fiend’ instead of ‘friend.’

3.6 What is Speech Impairment? - Definition, Causes & Characteristics
3.4 Categorical Perception: Definition & Explanation