speech impediment types

4 Speech Impediment Types

Posted on
March 23, 2023
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There are multiple types of speech impediments. Most commonly these can include articulation or phonological disorders, apraxia, and dysarthria. Let’s walk you through what is a speech impediment and how we can recognize the different speech impediment types.

What is a speech impediment

A speech impediment, also known as speech disorder or speech impairment, affects the child’s ability to be heard and understood. It is commonly recognized when your child’s mouth, tongue, vocal tract and jaw have difficulty working together to produce easily understandable words.

If you leave a speech impediment untreated, it can result in increased frustration, less socialization, and challenges with reading and writing.

How do I know if I have a speech impediment?

When your child substitutes sounds or it sounds distorted. Instead of saying “red”, we hear “wed” or “wabbit” for “rabbit”. When this occurs, a speech and language professional may indicate that it’s a speech disorder. Whereas, if your child prefers using gestures over vocalizations or words, an SLP may indicate it’s a speech impediment.

Which is an example of speech impairment?

There are many different speech impediment types. The most common ones include articulation or phonological disorders, apraxia, and dysarthria.

speech impediment types
Four categories of speech impediments

What are the four types of speech disorders?

  1. Articulation disorders also known as functional phonological disorders, are commonly known as difficulty with producing specific sounds, deleting sounds, or substituting one sound for another. Very often speech sound awareness and sound-letter correspondence can get in the way of articulating sounds correctly. With the help of a speech therapist, this can be remediated. While siblings often have articulation disorders, when one has difficulty with producing sounds independently of motor programming or oral motor weaknesses, the etiology is not directly known. Errors caused due to dialects and accents ARE NOT speech sound disorders.
  2. Motor speech disorders are neurologically based and typically fall into either motor programming/planning (apraxia) or motor movement/execution (dysarthria) disorders:
  • Dysarthria is an articulator movement disorder. Individuals with this disorder have difficulty with moving their articulators ( mouth, jaw, lips) in ways needed to produce sounds in isolation as well as in connected speech. This is due to an impaired ability to move the articulators as weaknesses are present.
  • Apraxia is a motor-programming speech disorder. Individuals with this disorder usually produce error sounds inconsistent. For example, a /p/ May be produced as a /t/ and in other contexts may be produced as a /k/. Additionally, due to the fact that the brain is sending incorrect signals, intelligibility is significantly reduced as many sound errors are present. Children are often asked to repeat what they are trying to say, and many respond by either shutting down and not wanting to communicate or showing their frustration by crying or physically expressing themselves.
  1. Organic speech sound disorders can result from underlying motor/neurological or structural deficits or can be sensory-based. An example includes a sound disorder due to structural abnormalities caused by a cleft palate or other structural deficits/abnormalities caused after a medical procedure or surgery (dental procedures often affect the production of speech sounds and can lead to disordered speech). Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders fall into this category as facial bones and muscles grow in a way that compromises speech production and swallowing.
  1. Sensory or Perceptual speech disorders are typically caused by hearing loss. Hearing loss impacts initial speech sound development and causes misperceptions of speech sounds. This results in speech sound errors, due to the way that a child is hearing the sound.

What are the 3 speech impediments?

In its simplest form, a speech impediment is when a child has difficulty being understood by others due to the way that they are speaking. As discussed earlier, there can be a known cause or the etiology may be unknown. In either case, not being able to be understood and being asked to repeat what you just said can lead to socialization and have deep impacts on self-confidence. Additionally, speech is rooted in sound-letter correspondence and can have long-lasting impacts on later academic development including reading and writing.

Speech impediments and speech disorders are one of the same. Let’s take a deep dive into three prevalent impediments:

  1. Stuttering/ Fluency disorder: There are different types of stuttering, and while many kids grow into it, this disorder can be acquired later on. Nonetheless, the muscles being used for speaking causes speech to be dysfluent. Disfluencies can include: repeating sounds in words or words over again in a sentence, blocking/ sounds like pausing while speaking while air might be coming out, elongating a sound, using fillers frequently (um, like), and replacing words with other words for fear of stuttering.
  2. Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS): This is a motor programming/ planning disorder. While the brain sends incorrect signals regarding sounds, many errors are produced inconsistently. Additionally, errors are often so frequent that intelligibility is significantly reduced. Chewing and swallowing can be affected due to the motor planning required to perform these tasks. Even though the child knows what they want to say, they have trouble programming motor movements so the sounds come out as they intend.
  3. Dysarthria: This is caused by muscle weakness in the articulator necessary for speech. As with any other speech disorder, speech sound errors are common but they are typically consistent. Like fluency disorders, it can develop on its own or be acquired. Many people with post-stroke and traumatic brain injury develop dysarthria.

If the intervention doesn’t start early, the impact can later include difficulty with reading, writing, and making friends. While speech challenges can be acquired or developmental, it is important to address when there is a noticeable impact on the child’s communication. Speech therapists and SLTs can help support the child and their families as they navigate these challenges, supported by platforms such as Noala to enrich their journey towards enhanced communication.

You may find our, How does a SALT assessment work, blog useful for support to start your family's communication journey.

Speech impediment types references

Speech Sound Disorders: Articulation and Phonology

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders

Stuttering: What It Is, Causes, Treatment & Types

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