Phonological Disorder vs. Articulation Disorder

What is the difference between a Phonological vs Articulation Disorder? I often get asked this question by parents of children that have difficulty with speech-sound productions. While they both affect the intelligibility of speech it is important to remember that an articulation disorder is sound specific while a phonological disorder relates to the patterns of speech a child uses to simplify adult speech. Most children use these processes when they are learning speech and are appropriate up to a certain age. For example, if a child is using “ba” for “ball” or saying “ha” for “hat” at the age of 2, it is completely normal. However, if a child continues to omit the final consonants (“bu” for “bus”, “ca” for “cat”) after the age of 2, it is considered to be an abnormal speech pattern. With an articulation disorder, your child will mispronounce the same sound such as /s/ for /sh/. They will have difficulty producing the /s/ sound in any position of words. For example, “bush” for “bus” or “mesh” for “mess”. Did you notice that the child did not omit the final consonant but did mispronounce the sound in the final position for /s/?

If your child is mispronouncing the sounds above or present with the phonological patterns provided and they have reached the age of mastery an evaluation by an SLP should be sought. Here are a few questions I ask families that come in for a speech evaluation:

  • Do others have difficulty understanding your child? Of course, we are their parents, we are around them ALL the time and therefore, have become accustomed to their communication skills. BUT if they are misunderstood by peers or other family members this should raise a red flag. The chart below provides a visual or how intelligible a child should to an unknown listener by a certain age.
  • Does the child get frustrated when speaking to other individuals? Children have so much to say yet they are not understood by their peers they get extremely frustrated. In their eyes, they are saying what they want to say correctly and they don’t understand why others are looking at them funny or choosing to walk away. They will often “act out” due to their frustrations or will choose to communicate in another way such as pulling you towards what they want or pointing. You will also get some older children that are aware of their misarticulations and often will choose not to socialize with peers because they either get made fun of or children simply walk away from the conversation. I’m sure this has happened to all of us and how bad did that hurt? Now picture a 4 or 5-year-old going through that and it’s YOUR child. Ouch!

Remember every child is different and these are only a few things that an SLP looks at during an evaluation. Oral motor development, diagnosis, and other significant medical histories can be contributing factors. Hope you found this information helpful and if you have any further questions or concerns that were not provided in this brief overview, consult with an SLP.

Hope you all have a great day!

Leave the first comment