As young children learn language skills, it’s normal for them to have some trouble saying words the right way. That’s part of the learning process. Their speech skills develop over time. They master certain sounds and words at each age. By age 8, most children have learned how to master all word sounds.
But some children have speech sound disorders. This means they have trouble saying certain sounds and words past the expected age. This can make it hard to understand what a child is trying to say.
Speech sound problems include articulation disorder and phonological process disorder.
Often, a speech sound disorder has no known cause. But some speech sound errors may be caused by:
The cause often is not known, but children at risk for a speech sound disorder include those with:
Your child’s symptoms depend on what type of speech sound disorder your child has. He or she may have trouble forming some word sounds correctly past a certain age. This is called articulation disorder. Your child may drop, add, distort, or swap word sounds. Keep in mind that some sound changes may be part of an accent. They are not speech errors. Signs of this problem can include:
If your child often makes certain word speech mistakes, he or she may have phonological process disorder. The mistakes may be common in young children learning speech skills. But when they last past a certain age, it may be a disorder. Signs of this problem are:
First, your child’s healthcare provider will check his or her hearing. This is to make sure that your child isn’t simply hearing words and sounds incorrectly.
If your child’s healthcare provider rules out hearing loss, you may want to talk with a speech-language pathologist. This is a speech expert who evaluates and treats children who are having problems with speech-language and communication.
The speech-language pathologist can put together a therapy plan to help your child with his or her disorder. These healthcare providers work with children to help them:
The pathologist can also give you activities and strategies to help your child practice at home. If your child has a physical problem in the mouth, the pathologist can refer your child to an ear, nose, throat healthcare provider or orthodontist if needed.
Spotting a speech sound disorder early can help your child overcome any speech problems. He or she can learn how to speak well and comfortably.
You can do things to take care of your child with a speech sound disorder:
Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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