What Is Speech and Language Articulation

Speech and language articulation is the process by which a person forms words. This is done with the different parts of a person's jaw and mouth - the tongue, palate, lips and teeth. It is also a field of study under special education.

A person is said to have an articulation disorder if he is unable to produce the right sounds to communicate or to be understood. Here are the types of articulation disorders:

Omissions - In this articulation disorder, the person repeatedly fails to pronounce a syllable, usually at the end of the word. For example, a child may say "ead" instead of "head".

Substitutions - The person deletes the sound or syllable, and uses another sound or syllable in its place. For example, a child may say "wabbit" instead of "rabbit" or "thick" instead of "sick".

Distortion - In this disorder the word is slightly changed, but sounds like the word intended. For example, a child may say "meldon" instead of "melon".

How Therapy Can Help

Articulation disorders may have physical causes including cleft palate, abnormal facial muscle tone due to cerebral palsy, and apraxia, which is an inability to coordinate one's facial muscles correctly. If a child is suffering from deafness or hearing loss, this may also complicate his attempts to master the sounds of the English language. Most of the time, however, articulation disorder have no apparent physical causes at all.

Articulation disorders are often mistaken by adults as baby talk, and are thought to be cute. While many children outgrow baby talk, a child's inability to produce sounds and communicate may point to a more serious problem. When a child is about to start school, he is interviewed for the purpose of identifying how developed or underdeveloped his speech and language patterns are. The most serious cases are usually referred to a speech therapist, also known as a speech and language pathologist (SLP).

The SLP is someone who has completed his undergraduate education in communication and his graduate degree in speech pathology. He must also have earned his certificates on clinical competency, speech pathology and special education.

In diagnosing people with articulation disorders, the SLP uses the following tools and procedures: an inspection of the person's oral cavity, tests on producing sounds and words, a test on the person's hearing and feedback mechanism, a fluency test, and the person's medical history. Based on his findings, the SLP may or may not recommend speech therapy, depending on whether or not he thinks the person will benefit from it.

Speech therapy sessions are usually conducted in groups, with children grouped according to their articulation problems. The therapist starts the session with some small talk to get the children to relax and loosen up their speech muscles. This also addresses the problem of shyness. The second part of the session is comprised of games and activities that are geared to the specific articulation problem of the group. For example, the group may be given some pictures of things whose names contain the letter R. The group will be asked to repeat the names of the objects. The therapist may give physical cues that can help the children with the right pronunciation. For example, for the letter "F", the therapist may say "Bite your lip and blow air through your mouth." The kids may also be given mirrors where they can observe how parts of their mouth and face move when they produce sounds. Learning the right physical form and observing themselves on the mirror help the children to correct what they are doing wrong.

Proper speech and language articulation allows children to communicate and take part in society. As such, it must be an integral part of a child's education.

More Information On Speech and Language Articulation

  1. IPA Self-Test
  2. On-Line Phonology course
  3. Treatment of Articulation Disorders in Children