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Speech Sound Disorders – How SCT Helps Children Reduce Sound Errors and Become More Intelligible

Speech Sound Disorders – How SCT Helps Children Reduce Sound Errors and Become More Intelligible

Languages are made up of complex sequences of sounds coming together to form words. When a child is learning their language, they imitate the sounds they hear. In the beginning, this sounds like cooing and babbling; the easiest speech sounds are practiced repeatedly: first vowels, then easy consonant sounds connected to vowels (“dadada”). As children develop, their babbling becomes more advanced adding in more sounds and turning into something that sounds like jabber. Eventually, this baby talk turns into early words, and then more intelligible speech.

Sometimes, children have difficulty with the transition to intelligible speech and they need the help of a speech therapist to guide the way to clear communication.

Why do Children Develop Speech Sound Disorders?

Speech sound disorders include problems with making sounds (articulation) and problems with sound patterns (phonological processes).

Speech sounds develop in a predictable sequence and follow a predictable timeline. Some errors are expected as a child learns to talk. For example, we expect a child to have difficulty making a /r/ sound when they are young. However, as a child gets older, we would expect the /r/ sound to come in and to start hearing “rabbit” instead of “wabbit.”

Sound patterns also follow a predictable sequence and timeline. For example, it is common for young children to reduce the word “spoon” to “poon.” This is called Cluster Reduction. However, if older children continue to reduce sound clusters, it can be very difficult to understand them when they talk.

Speech sound disorders are diagnosed when a child continues to make sound errors past the time when they should have outgrown the mistake. An articulation development chart can be viewed here (PDF).

Speech sound disorders are associated with a variety of diagnoses, for example, Down Syndrome, cleft palate, hearing loss, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, frequent ear infections, and developmental delays.

Therapy Process

At SCT, we offer evaluations to determine if your child’s speech sound errors are typical in nature and will likely resolve of their own accord or if direct therapy is needed to help your child achieve more intelligible speech.

During our evaluations, we analyze the sounds your child is making and how they are putting those sounds together into sound patterns. Speech sounds are analyzed in isolation, in varying positions in words, sentences, and in connected speech.

An oral examination is performed to ensure the structures of the mouth are intact and performing adequately for speech production.

These results are combined and a speech therapy plan is put in place capitalizing on the child’s strengths and addressing the weaknesses. SCT therapists are trained to use a variety of verbal, visual, and tactile prompts to help children hear, recognize, and produce target sounds.


How common are speech errors?
As speech develops, sound errors are normal and expected. Because different sounds and sound patterns develop at different times and are mastered at different times, it can be challenging for a parent to know if his/her child’s errors are typical or atypical. If you have questions about your child’s speech development, SCT can help determine if your child is on track or if intervention is warranted.

Will my child’s speech be affected by learning a second language? 
There has been much research about the effects of multilingualism on speech and language development. All research points to the benefits of learning more than one language. Learning more than one language will not cause a speech sound disorder. For more information, check out the American Speech and Hearing Association’s website here. http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/The-Advantages-of-Being-Bilingual/

At what age should I seek help?
The best prevention for speech sound disorders is early intervention. If you have concerns, it is a good idea to have your child evaluated.

Is speech sound therapy covered by insurance?
If your insurance covers speech therapy, it should cover speech sound therapy. Check with your insurance company for details regarding your specific plan.

About the Author

Lisa Hamblin, M.S., CCC-SLP

Lisa Hamblin, M.S., CCC-SLP

Lisa has worked with kids since her days in college coaching gymnastics for children 3-13.  Lisa is stimulated by watching children learn and succeed “their inner light shines so bright” she says, and it's this passion that serves as the foundation of SCT's mission to support and enrich the lives of children.

Lisa's therapy focuses on a child's specific needs and personality; a strategy that makes therapy feel more like play and less like work. Her specialties include autism spectrum disorders and advanced training in early speech and language development. Her training and experience with children birth to three years gives her a deep understanding of how to help children at any age. When Lisa founded SCT, she made training in birth to 3 years a requirement for all therapists as part of her effort to provide the best therapy possible for every child.

At home, Lisa has had the opportunity to guide the development of her own children – ages 17, 15, and 3. She finds relaxation in physical activities like running and rock climbing. This summer Lisa's oldest daughter will join her “on the rock” for the first time.


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