What are articulation disorders?
These disorders are different from language disorders. In fact, they consist of difficulties in the production of one or more speech sounds. In certain children, the cause of these disorders may not be known and may appear without underlying physical or sensory disorders. In other cases, these articulation disorders may be secondary to certain factors, such as atypical swallowing, hearing loss or any deformity of the oral cavity (ex: missing teeth, cleft palate, dental malocclusion, etc…).These disorders usually appear in children before the age of 6 and may lead to repercussions in literacy and spelling if they persist.
What are some red flags?
Articulation disorders in children tend to appear with the development of vocabulary. A certain sound may be thus absent from the child’s language. For example, with difficulties with the pronunciation of the sound « r », this sound has a tendency to be omitted at the start of words (ex: “rope” becomes “ope”), at the end of words (ex: “car” becomes “car”) and in the middle of words (ex: “brick” becomes “bick”). In other cases, children might substitute the sound with another. For example, they might say “byic” instead of “brick”.
How to act?
It is normal to observe alterations with certain sounds in children at the start of speech development. Nevertheless, one should be alerted in the case of difficulties with articulation that persist beyond the age of 4. Early consultation with a speech therapist is therefore primordial, allowing the therapist to determine the proper moment to initiate therapy based on the child’s maturity level. The evaluation will then allow to pinpoint the exact cause of the articulation disorder, and to put forth a treatment plan. In the case where an underlying issue exists, the therapist will refer you to a specialist (ENT, dentist, orthodontist, plastic surgeon, etc…) in order to treat the root cause. In such cases, the therapist’s role would be in parallel to the specialist’s treatment. Practice and reinforcement of articulatory problems would be put into effect. Moreover, the therapist would guide the parents by providing them with the tools necessary to aid their child on a daily basis.