by Lindsey Wegner, M.A., CCC-SLP
For a child, learning to speak is a process. He/
she may produce a sound incorrectly at first, but will
often self-correct through maturity. When a child is
unable to self-correct a speech sound, it becomes either
an articulation disorder or a phonological disorder,
depending on the type of error(s) he/she is producing.
If a child is having difficulty making sounds, he/she
is demonstrating an articulation disorder. The child is
either substituting one sound for another (i.e., saying
“woad” for “road”), leaving a sound out completely (i.e., saying “and” for “hand”),
or adding and changing sounds. It is important to note that not all substitutions and
omissions are speech errors. They could possibly be the result of a regional dialect or
When a child is producing patterns of sound errors, he/she is demonstrating a
phonological processing disorder. For example:
- Fronting – a sound made in the back of the mouth is replaced with a sound made in the front of the mouth, which results in saying “tee” for “key”
- Cluster reduction – child leaves out a sound in a word, such as “bock” for “block”
- Velar assimilation – saying “kack” for “tack”
- Nasal assimilation – saying “money” for “funny”
- Stopping – saying “tar” for “car”
- Gliding – saying “wabbit” for “rabbit”
- Deaffrication – saying “shop” for “chop”
- Weak syllable – saying “nana” for “banana”
- Final consonant deletion – saying “bu” for “bus”
Consult a speech-language pathologist (SLP) if you think your child/student is having
trouble with his/her speech. The SLP will administer formal and/or informal articulation
testing, and may perform an oral mechanism examination to determine whether the
muscles in the mouth are working correctly.
When the evaluation is complete, the SLP will write a report and determine if services are
recommended for the child based on the overall communication evaluation.
As a reminder, most children struggle with certain sounds when learning to speak.
Sounds are developmental, and children become more articulate with age. However,
it’s important to pay attention to your child’s speech and contact a speech-language
pathologist for an evaluation.