The arrangement and interaction of the articulators (such as the tongue, lips, and palate) when making a speech sound.
Are you concerned that your child isn’t speaking as clearly as it seems he should be by the age he is? The physical ability to speak clearly, or articulate, develops at different rates in different children, but some children do end up lagging behind for various reasons.
Children take a while to pronounce words correctly when they’re learning to talk – they develop the physical capacity to produce all the necessary sounds over time. Usually they gain that physical capacity at similar ages, so speech development has milestones just as physical development does.
Children who lag significantly behind other children their age in being able to pronounce clear speech sounds are said to have articulation disorders. A child may substitute one sound for another, leave out a sound, or add or change a sound. Common speech errors, such as substituting a “w” sound for an “r” sound (“wabbit”), become speech disorders when they last beyond a certain age.
Errors in articulation of speech sounds can come from a variety of causes, including physical, developmental, neurological, or genetic syndromes. However, most often, we never know the cause. Whatever the cause, treatment can help.
How can I help my child with an articulation disorder?
A speech-language pathologist can evaluate your child’s ability to speak by listening to her talk, or she may use a formal articulation test to record sound errors. The therapist will also want to examine your child to see whether her mouth muscles are working as they should. The therapist will also look at your child’s overall language development and communication abilities.
A therapist may treat a child for an articulation disorder by demonstrating how to produce various sounds correctly, by helping her learn to tell the difference between correct and incorrect sounds, and by showing her how to practice the sounds in different words. The therapist may provide exercises or games you can play with your child at home that will help her develop her ability to speak clearly.