difficulty producing sounds

Speech Matters-April 2010

By Cheryl D. Lindsay, M.S. SLP

 Enriching lives by improving communication skills is the overall goal of professionals helping those with speech, language and hearing issues. In Canada, 10% of the population has a problem with one or all of these. (Source: www.caslpa.ca)

 Speech-language pathologists, and their supportive personnel work in a variety of settings to meet the needs of their clients.  Some of these settings include private practice, schools and preschools, hospitals, health units, and research centres.

 Speech-language pathologists are an integral part of a health care team. Their work in various settings and with many unique clients, brings them together with physicians, psychologists, teachers, occupational therapists and physical therapists.  This cooperation and communication ensures that the patient’s best interests are put first when it comes to supporting development and disorders of speech.

 Communication disorders can be experienced by adults as well as children. Speech-language pathologists, also commonly referred to as “speech therapists”, can diagnose and treat articulation disorders, voice problems, disfluency, language difficulties and swallowing issues. Adults may experience some of these problems as a result of a head injury or stroke.

 An articulation disorder refers to difficulty producing sounds. Someone with an articulation disorder may substitute /t/ for /k/ and therefore, may say /tite/ but mean to say /kite/. Another common substitution is /w/ for /r/, so that the word /rat/ sounds like /wat/. Articulation disorders may include substitutions as above, or omissions or distortions of sounds.

 Voice problems may present as difficulties with hoarseness, pitch or volume and can be the result of vocal cord injury, dysfunction or disease.

 Disfluency, more commonly known as stuttering, can be identified as hesitations, syllable or word repetitions or restarts. Childhood disfluency differs from disfluency in adulthood.  Children often outgrow disfluency but it can sometimes result in long term stuttering.  Stuttering may not onset until adulthood.

 In general, language disorders can be categorized as either receptive or expressive. Receptive disorders refer to problems understanding or processing what is heard. Expressive disorders include problems putting words together in speech, in an appropriate form, so that thoughts are verbalized in a way that listeners can understand.  

 Speech-language pathologists can also assist people who have problems with swallowing and eating.  These problems can be the result of congenital or acquired diseases or disorders.

 In addition to assessments and therapy, research, public education and public awareness are also very important aspects of the professional mandate of speech-language pathologists. Over the next several months, this column will offer information on a number of different speech matters.

(Next Month: “Is it true that my child will outgrow a speech problem?”)

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