Speech disorders - children
A speech disorder is a condition in which a person has problems creating or forming the speech sounds needed to communicate with others.
Three common speech disorders are:
Speech disorders are different from language disorders in children, such as:
Articulation deficiency; Voice disorders; Vocal disorders; Disfluency; Communication disorder - speech disorder; Speech disorder - stuttering
Speech is one of the main ways in which we communicate with those around us. It develops naturally, along with other signs of normal growth and development.
Disfluencies are disorders in which a person repeats a sound, word, or phrase. Stuttering may be the most serious disfluency.
Articulation disorders may have no clear cause. They may also occur in other family members. Other causes include:
Voice disorders are caused by problems when air passes from the lungs, through the vocal cords, and then through the throat, nose, mouth, and lips. A voice disorder may be due to:
Stuttering is the most common type of disfluency.
Symptoms of disfluency can include:
Exams and Tests
The following tests can help diagnose speech disorders:
A hearing test may also be done.
Milder forms of speech disorders may disappear on their own.
Speech therapy may help with more severe symptoms or speech problems that do not improve.
In therapy, the child will learn how to create certain sounds.
Outlook depends on the cause of the disorder. Speech can often be improved with speech therapy. Early treatment is likely to have better results.
Speech disorders may lead to psychosocial problems associated with ineffective communication.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
Intellectual disability and hearing loss make children more likely to develop speech disorders. At-risk infants should be referred to an audiologist for a hearing test. Hearing and speech therapy can then be started, if necessary.
As young children begin to speak, some disfluency is common. Children lack a large vocabulary and have difficulty expressing themselves. This results in broken speech. If you place excessive attention on the disfluency, a stuttering pattern may develop. The best way to prevent stuttering, therefore, is to avoid paying too much attention to the disfluency.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Child speech and language: speech disorders. www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/childsandl.htm. Accessed March 10, 2016.
Choi SS, Zalzal GH. Voice disorders. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 203.
Simms MD, Schum RL. Language development and communication disorders, In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 35.
Review Date: 2/15/2016
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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