Speech disorders refer to several conditions in which a person has difficulty communicating by mouth.
See also: Speech impairment
Alternative NamesArticulation deficiency; Voice disorders; Disfluency
Speech is one of the primary ways we communicate with those around us. It is an effective way to monitor normal growth and development as well as to identify potential problems.
Disfluencies are rhythm disorders that are usually characterized by the repetition of a sound, word, or phrase. Stuttering is perhaps the most serious disfluency.
Articulation deficiencies involve sounds made incorrectly or inappropriately.
Voice disorders involve abnormalities in the quality, pitch, and loudness of the sound.
There are many potential causes of speech impairment. The most common cause is mental retardation. Other causes may include:
Delayed speech development is one of the common symptoms of developmentally delayed children. It occurs in 5-10% of all children. Boys are three to four times as likely to have speech disorders as girls.
- Repetition of sounds, words, or phrases after age 4
- Frustration with attempts to communicate
- Head jerking while talking
- Eye blinking while talking
- Embarrassment with speech
- Unintelligible speech by age 3
- Leaves out consonants at the beginning of words by age 3
- Leaves out of consonants at the end of words by age 4
- Persistent problems with articulation after age 7
- Leaves out sounds where they should occur
- Distorts sounds
- Substitutes an incorrect sound for a correct one
- Pitch deviations
- Deviations in the loudness and quality of the voice
Exams and Tests
- Denver Articulation Screening Examination
- Early Language Milestone Scale
- Denver II
- Peabody Picture Test Revised
The best treatment is prevention and early intervention by a speech pathologist. Speech training is an involved and time consuming endeavor that can have profound results with consistent treatment.
The prognosis depends on the cause of the disorder. Usually, speech can be improved with speech therapy. Prognosis improves with early intervention.
Psycho-social problems associated with ineffective communication.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if your child's speech is not reaching the standard landmarks, if you suspect your child is in a high risk group, or your child is showing other signs of a speech disorder.
Since mental retardation and hearing loss are predisposing factors for speech disorders, at-risk infants should be referred to an audiologist for an audiology exam. Audiological and speech therapy can then be started if necessary.
Stuttering can best be prevented by parents withholding undue attention to disfluency in their young child. As young children begin to speak, some disfluency is common. They lack a large vocabulary and have difficulty expressing themselves. This results in broken or dysfluent speech. If parents place excessive attention on the disfluency, a pattern may develop.