Speech sound disorder

speech sound disorderSpeech sound disorder is a communication condition in which children have persistent trouble saying words or sounds accurately. Speech sound production describes the clear verbalization of the phonemes (person sounds) that make up spoken words. Speech sound production requires both the phonological information of speech sounds and the capacity to facilitate the jaw, tongue, and lips with breathing and vocalizing in arrange to deliver speech sounds. Children with speech sound disorder may have trouble with the phonological information of speech sounds or the capacity to facilitate the movements vital for communication. These communication challenges can result in a restricted capacity to successfully take part in social, scholarly, or occupational environments.


The DSM-5 includes the following diagnostic criteria for Speech Sound Disorder:

  • Persistent difficulty with the production of speech sounds that interferes with the intelligibility of one’s speech or prevents verbal communication
  • Limitations on communication interfere with social participation or performance at school or work
  • The symptoms begin early in life and are not attributable to other medical or neurological condition

In typically developing children, about half of the language should be clear by 2 years, and most by 4 years. According to the Institute of Child Mind, some other potential signs of impaired speech include:

  • Leaving out sounds or replacing the wrong sound with the right one
  • Voice quality (for example, atypically hoarse or nasal) or sudden changes in pitch or volume that complicate language comprehension
  • Running out off the air while talking


In many cases, the cause of speech sound disorder isn’t well known. Children who experience speech sound disorder also have family members with a history of speech or language impairment, suggesting that this condition is a hereditary aspect. 

Treatment for speech sound disorder consists mainly of speech therapy and language therapy. A speech-language pathologist may create a therapy plan that helps children recognize the sounds or phrases they have trouble expressing and correct them. The speech-language pathologist will teach the child how to move his or her tongue and lips correctly to create sounds and provide opportunities for the development of these abilities.
Children with speech sound disabilities respond well over time to therapy and speaking difficulties improve. However, where there is also a language disorder, the speech condition has a worse prognosis and may be associated with different learning disabilities.

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