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Phonological Disorder vs Articulation Disorder: What’s the Difference?

While articulation and phonological disorders may appear similar on the surface, they are distinct in several aspects, ranging from their symptoms to their management strategies.

Fortunately, there are clear indicators to differentiate between the two.

In this article, we'll dissect both articulation and phonological disorders, highlighting their fundamental differences, root causes, early indicators, and approaches to intervention.


In this article, we will discuss:


Fluency vs Articulation Disorders

How can you Distinguish Articulation vs. Phonological Disorders?

Understanding the difference between articulation and phonological disorders is essential, as each impacts speech in unique ways. While both may affect speech, they do so in distinct manners.

Articulation disorders involve difficulties in physically producing speech sounds, leading to distortions, substitutions, or omissions of sounds. Phonological disorders, on the other hand, involve patterns of sound errors and a lack of understanding of the sound rules of the language.

Armed with this foundational knowledge, let’s delve deeper into the world of articulation and phonological disorders, exploring their early signs and strategies for effective communication!


Defeat speech barriers: Distinguish Phonological Disorder from Articulation Disorder

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What is an Articulation Disorder?

An articulation disorder is marked by difficulties in physically producing speech sounds. This disorder goes beyond mere pronunciation issues; it reflects challenges in the movement and coordination of the mouth and speech organs necessary for clear speech. Children or adults with articulation disorders might find it hard to form certain sounds correctly, leading to speech that is often difficult to understand.


Fluency Disorder Therapy

What causes Articulation Disorders?

The causes of articulation disorders are multifaceted. They can arise from physical abnormalities such as structural differences in the jaw or palate, including conditions like cleft palate. Neurological issues, which affect the control and coordination of the muscles involved in speech, are also contributing factors.

Hearing loss can also play a significant role, as it limits the auditory feedback needed for developing accurate speech sounds. In some cases, these disorders may be part of a broader developmental delay or have a genetic component, especially if there is a family history of speech difficulties.


What are the Symptoms of Articulation Disorders?

An articulation disorder is primarily identified through specific types of speech errors. The symptoms can be categorized as follows:


  • Substitutions: One sound is consistently replaced with another.

  • Omissions: Certain sounds are left out of words.

  • Distortions: Sounds are produced in an unusual manner, often making the spoken words hard to understand.

  • Additions: Extra sounds are inserted into words.


What is a Phonological Disorder?


Articulation disorder Therapy

Phonological disorders are characterized by difficulty in understanding and using the sound system of a language. This disorder is not about the inability to produce sounds, but rather about the incorrect application of the rules governing sound patterns in speech. It reflects a higher-level cognitive or linguistic difficulty, indicating that the brain's processing of sound patterns is somehow disrupted or delayed.


What are the Causes of Phonological Disorders?

The origins of phonological disorders often lie in developmental issues. They may manifest during the critical periods of speech and language acquisition in early childhood. Persistent middle ear infections causing temporary hearing loss in young children can also contribute to these disorders, as they impact the child's ability to hear and thus learn sounds correctly. In some cases, phonological disorders may be a part of a broader language impairment or linked to familial predispositions.


What are the Symptoms of Phonological Disorders?

The hallmark of a phonological disorder is the presence of patterned errors in speech. These patterns can be observed in the following ways:


  • Systematic Sound Substitutions: Replacing certain sounds consistently with others (e.g., replacing all 'k' sounds with 't' sounds).

  • Simplification of Sound Combinations: Omitting consonants in blends (e.g., "pane" for "plane").

  • Patterned Sound Errors: Following specific patterns in errors, like omitting all final consonants.

How do you Treat Articulation Disorders vs Phonological Disorders?

Treatment for articulation and phonological disorders requires distinct approaches tailored to the specific challenges of each condition.


Articulation Disorder Treatment:


  • Speech Therapy: Focused on teaching correct production of the problematic sounds.

  • Motor Exercises: To improve the coordination and movement of speech organs.

  • Practice and Repetition: Regular practice of sound production in different contexts.


Phonological Disorder Treatment:


  • Speech Therapy: Emphasizing the understanding and use of the language's sound system based on your specific needs.

  • Phonological Awareness Activities: To help recognize and correct sound patterns.

  • Parent and Caregiver Involvement: Teaching strategies to support speech development at home.


Both disorders benefit from early intervention and individualized treatment plans. Speech-language pathologists play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating these disorders, using a variety of techniques and strategies to improve speech.


When Should You Seek Professional Help?

If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of articulation or phonological disorders, such as consistent speech sound errors or difficulty in understanding sound patterns, it is important to seek professional evaluation. Early intervention is key in addressing these disorders effectively.


Our team at Better Speech is here to assess and address a wide range of speech sound disorders. For those uncertain about the next steps, our experienced Speech-Language Pathologists offer guidance and support for a journey toward clearer and more effective communication.


At Better Speech we know you deserve speech therapy that works. Our team specializes in diagnosing and treating a variety of speech and language disorders. Reach out to our skilled Speech-Language Pathologists for guidance on managing and improving communication skills. At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can a child have both an articulation and a phonological disorder?

Yes, it's possible for a child to have both types of disorders simultaneously. This combination requires a comprehensive approach in therapy that addresses both individual sound production and overall sound pattern understanding.

How effective is speech therapy for these disorders?

How long does it take to see improvement with speech therapy?

How do parents support speech therapy for these disorders?

How do articulation and phonological disorders impact school and work?

 

About the Author


Aycen Zambuto

Aycen Zambuto

I’m a seasoned educator in speech therapy with over six years of experience helping people navigate challenges in communication. Throughout this time, I’ve found joy in guiding individuals through a variety of therapeutic journeys, from toddlers with apraxia to seniors with dysphonia.

I’m passionate about demystifying this complex world of speech therapy and helping readers around the globe achieve clear and effective communication. When I’m not writing about speech, you’ll often find me reading, traveling or spending time with friends and family.

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