A speech sound disorder occurs when sounds are not produced correctly. This is very common in young children as they learn to say new words. When mistakes continue past the age most children speak clearly a sound disorder may be diagnosed. Speech sound disorders include problems with articulation (making sounds) and phonological processes (sound patterns).

Symptoms of speech sound disorders include substituting one sound for another, leaving sounds off, or adding or changing the sound. Also, as in the case of phonological process disorders, an entire pattern of sound errors is involved. For example, substituting all sounds made in the back of the mouth like “k” and “g” for those in the front of the mouth like “t” and “d”(e.g., saying “tup” for “cup” or “das” for “gas”).

The speech-language pathologist (SLP) is the professional who evaluates speech difficulties. At the evaluation the SLP will review your child’s medical history and talk to you about your concerns. The SLP listens to your child speak and may give a formal articulation test to record sound errors. They will examine your child’s mouth to determine whether the muscles of the mouth are working correctly. The SLP may recommend speech treatment if the sound is not appropriate for the child’s age. The SLP may also screen your child’s language development to determine overall communication functioning (see language disorders).

Treatment will help your child improve the articulation of individual sounds or reduce errors in production of sound patterns. Interventions to improve how your child says individual sounds may include teaching your child how to produce the sound correctly and recognize which sounds are correct and incorrect. The therapists will give you and your child exercises to help your child practice sounds in different words. When treating errors involving groups of sounds (Phonological processes) treatment will also include teaching the rules of speech.

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