Phonological Disorders 101

by Tom Kloiber on July 19, 2013

Phonological DisordersA phonological disorder is a type of speech disorder also known as an articulation disorder.¹ Approximately three percent of preschool children and two percent of children ages six through seven have a phonological disorder.It occurs when a child uses incorrect speech patterns by making errors on sound patterns or sound blends.²

Causes of phonological disorders in children have been linked to factors like relatives who have had speech and language problems, poverty, and coming from a large family. Anatomical anomalies, such as cleft palate or dental problems, and damage to nerves that control muscles that help create speech  are other factors.

Naturally, children experience pronunciation difficulties early on but when these are still present by age five, it is more likely that a phonological disorder is present.

Children, by age four or five, should only have trouble making a few sounds such as l, s, r, v, z, ch, sh, and th. By age seven or eight, most of these should be correctly pronounced.

Phonological disorders encompass a broad spectrum of speech and language problems that depend on many things such as the age at which the disorder started and how severe it is. It is also possible that children who exhibit phonological disorders at a young age will out grow them eventually.

For apparent language development disorders, it is important to call a health care provider, such as a speech language therapist or an audiologist, who can further assess the child’s condition.

Language develops in step-by-step processes and patterns. When a child stays in one process for longer than normal, the result is a developmental phonological disorder. So how do you make sure that a child is properly developing during his or her phonological processes?

A typical Phonological Process Development Chart can be found on:

  • Stopping – when a child substitutes a stop (b, p, d, t, g, k) for a fricative (s, z, f, v, ths, h, sh, and zh), as in ‘pine’ for ‘vine’
  • Backing – when a child substitutes a front sound (t, d) with a back sound (k, g), as in ‘hope’ for ‘soap’
  • Vocalization/Vowelization – when a child substitutes a vowel sound for a syllabic liquid, as in ‘simpo’ for ‘simple’
  • Reduplication – when a child repeats a syllable of a target word which creates a multi-syllabic word, as in ‘dada’ for ‘dog’
  • Initial Consonant Deletion (ICD) – when a child does not say the first single consonant or consonant cluster at the beginning of the word, as in ‘own’ for ‘phone’






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