Articulation: Is it cute or is it a delay?




Isn’t it cute when a two-year-old says “wabbit” for “rabbit”? Of course it is!! My oldest son referred to his younger brother, Logan, as “Wogan” and we always smiled at the cuteness! I mean, c’mon...that’s how nicknames are created, right?! BUT an older child (i.e., five-year-old) with these articulation difficulties can escalate to more significant difficulties if not treated. My oldest son also referred to a wagon as an “audi”. After days of trying to figure out what he was saying, the levels of frustration increased for all of us because there was a communication barrier. Some parents are told that their child will outgrow articulation difficulties, but that is not always the case. It’s best to err on the side of caution and make an appointment with a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), who is trained to assess and treat these problems in pediatric development.  

Difficulty with articulation is one of the more common problems seen by a Speech-Language Pathologist. According to the American Speech and Hearing Association, “Speech sound disorders is an umbrella term referring to any combination of difficulties with perception, motor production, and/or the phonological representation of speech sounds and speech segments (including phonotactic rules that govern syllable shape, structure, and stress, as well as prosody) that impact speech intelligibility.” It is observed more frequently in children, but adults may also exhibit articulation difficulties after a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Some diagnoses associated can include: Down Syndrome, cleft lip/palate, Apraxia of Speech, hearing impairment.

There are a variety of signs and symptoms. Sounds may be omitted, substituted, added or distorted. If an articulation disorder is present, there could also be difficulties observed regarding sound recognition and sound-to-letter matching, which can then influence reading. Although it may be cute to the parent that a child says “wabbit” for “rabbit” at five years of age, it may result in others not understanding what the child is saying. In some cases, spelling can also be negatively impacted by an articulation disorder. For example, a child may write” wamp” for “lamp” because that is how he/she says the word.

Someone with an articulation disorder will experience difficulty being understood by others, which could lead to significant frustration and possibly a decrease in attempting to communicate with others. Intervention is important! If you have concerns or questions regarding articulation skill development, please contact Auburn Therapy and Learning Center and seek a referral from your doctor. We are happy to help!

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