Speech refers to the physical act of producing sounds and stringing them together into meaningful words and sentences. Speech sound development may be delayed or disordered.
“Da bat un, mummy!” – It is not uncommon for young children to mispronounce words as the speech sound system develops. Parents often describe their children’s speech according to the letter of the alphabet that is most often associated with a particular sound.
Children may omit, substitute or distort speech sounds. When only a few sounds are affected, it is usually possible to understand what the child says, sometimes with careful listening. For some children, groups of sounds are affected, making speech more difficult to understand. Parents typically come to know their children’s error patterns and are able to understand most of their speech. Strangers, however, may turn to the parents for help. In some cases, parents and other family members will also find it difficult to understand what the child says and may rely on pointing and gesturing to capture the message. Some sound errors are considered “normal” for a child’s particular age and are expected to resolve as the child matures; others are not developmentally appropriate and require intervention.
In the same way we age with birth marks or misaligned teeth, some older children, teens and adults will grow up with pronunciation errors or speech sound distortions that were not corrected in childhood. Later in life, changes in pronunciation can develop from hearing loss and other medicals conditions (for example, following a stroke).
Who does it affect?
Developmentally inappropriate speech sound errors can be found in persons of all ages. More sounds will be affected in the speech of younger children as speech skills are developing. Older children, teens and adults may have residual speech sound errors which did not resolve on their own or were not corrected in childhood.
What is the impact?
Children may express frustration, act out behaviourally, or become withdrawn when their important messages are not understood. Older children may give the impression of being younger than their actual age. Pronunciation differences can be distracting or confusing to listeners; interfere with confident expression; and even impact career advancement.
Can anything be done?
Is it possible to work on articulation with a 2 year old? Absolutely! By making the therapy fun and interactive, children play games as they work on acquiring sounds without realizing it. Correction is also possible for adults. Clear speech and accurate sound production can reduce speaking anxiety, increase speaking confidence and support making favourable first impressions.
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