Articulation disorders may be described as “speech patterns” that effect intelligibility or the listener’s inability to understand the speech patterns of the speaker.
In children this is critical to self-image. If your child were 3 years old and unable to be understood by anyone other than his immediate family, then your child should be in therapy. Do not wait!! It is as critical to see these kids as it is to see cases that are pure language related. Expressive language disorders may be an extension of an articulation disorder. If your child is “apraxic” he will have difficulty with imitation of movements of the oral musculature. He will have difficulty with tongue placement on command (voluntary movements). His speech will be labored and not easily understood by others. In other words, when taken out of context, he is not intelligible. If your child is 3 years or younger and has few expressive utterances, then he should be seen by a speech therapist. If your child has expressive language but you do not understand him, then he needs to be seen by a speech therapist. If your child substitutes one sound for another or leaves off beginning or ending sounds, then your child needs to be seen by a speech therapist.
This form of speech disorder will cause ultimate difficulty with expressive language in the areas of grammar, such as past tense, 3rd person singular, plurals, possessives.
Therapy can be contextual once the process begins. However, the initial process requires initiation of sounds not in his repertoire. Once he is able to produce the sounds, then placement in words, sentences and conversational speech begins. At times a rhythmic pattern is developed to initiate use of sounds in words and phrases. This enables the child to produce the sounds in a contextual manner.
A “dysarthria” of speech is quite different. It is a “lower motor neuron” type of disorder that allows for the approximation of sounds, not the exact duplication of the exact sound. The movements of the tongue will approximate or be close to the needed placement and a mild distortion might occur, but the intelligibility will be enhanced.
In both cases, a reduction of rate of speech is critical. The tongue moves more easily between sounds and words with a slower rate of speech.
Some children just have a pure articulation delay due to development. This form of articulation disorder moves quickly through the therapy process and discharge is quicker. Also, there is rarely an expressive language delay that accompanies a pure developmental articulation disorder.