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Speech disorder: A disorder affecting the ability to produce normal speech.

disorders may affect articulation (phonetic or phonological disorders); fluency (stuttering
or cluttering); and/or voice (tone, pitch, volume, or rate). Speech disorders may have their
roots in oral-motor difficulties, although some involve language processing problems.
iagnosis is made through speech/language assessment that is performed by a licensed
speech/language pathologist. !reatment is by speech therapy.
"eneral #nformation About Speech and $anguage isorders
%y: &ational #nformation 'enter for 'hildren and (outh )ith isabilities
#n this article:
efinition of Speech and $anguage isorders
*ducational #mplications
efinition of speech and language disorders
Speech and language disorders refer to problems in communication and related areas
such as oral motor function. !hese delays and disorders range from simple sound
substitutions to the inability to understand or use language or use the oral-motor
mechanism for functional speech and feeding. Some causes of speech and language
disorders include hearing loss, neurological disorders, brain in.ury, mental retardation,
drug abuse, physical impairments such as cleft lip or palate, and vocal abuse or misuse.
/re0uently, ho)ever, the cause is un1no)n.
,ne 0uarter of the students served in the public schools2 special education programs
(almost 3 million children in the 3445-46 school year) )ere categori-ed as having a
speech or language impairment. !his estimate does not include children )ho have
speech/language problems secondary to other conditions such as deafness. $anguage
disorders may be related to other disabilities such as mental retardation, autism or
cerebral palsy. #t is estimated that communication disorders (including speech, language
and hearing disorders) affect one of every 37 people in the 8nited States.
A child2s communication is considered delayed )hen the child is noticeably behind his or
her peers in the ac0uisition of speech and/or language s1ills. Sometimes a child )ill have
greater receptive (understanding) than e9pressive (spea1ing) language s1ills, but this is
not al)ays the case.
Speech disorders refer to difficulties producing speech sounds or problems )ith voice
0uality. !hey might be characteri-ed by an interruption in the flo) or rhythm of speech,
such as stuttering, )hich is called dysfluency. Speech disorders may be problems )ith the
)ay sounds are formed, called articulation or phonological disorders, or they may be
difficulties )ith the pitch, volume or 0uality of the voice. !here may be a combination of
several problems. :eople )ith speech disorders have trouble using some speech sounds,
)hich can also be a symptom of a delay. !hey may say ;see; )hen they mean ;s1i; or
they may have trouble using other sounds li1e ;l; or ;r;. $isteners may have trouble
understanding )hat someone )ith a speech disorder is trying to say. :eople )ith voice
disorders may have trouble )ith the )ay their voices sound.
A language disorder is an impairment in the ability to understand and/or use )ords in
conte9t, both verbally and nonverbally. Some characteristics of language disorders
include improper use of )ords and their meanings, inability to e9press ideas,
inappropriate grammatical patterns, reduced vocabulary and inability to follo) directions.
,ne or a combination of these characteristics may occur in children )ho are affected by
language learning disabilities or developmental language delay. 'hildren may hear or see
a )ord but not be able to understand its meaning. !hey may have trouble getting others to
understand )hat they are trying to communicate.
*ducational implications
%ecause all communication disorders carry the potential to isolate individuals from their
social and educational surroundings, it is essential to find appropriate timely intervention.
<hile many speech and language patterns can be called ;baby tal1; and are part of a
young child2s normal development, they can become problems if they are not outgro)n as
e9pected. #n this )ay an initial delay in speech and language or an initial speech pattern
can become a disorder )hich can cause difficulties in learning. %ecause of the )ay the
brain develops, it is easier to learn language and communication s1ills before the age of
=. <hen children have muscular disorders, hearing problems or developmental delays,
their ac0uisition of speech, language and related s1ills is often affected.
Speech-language pathologists assist children )ho have communication disorders in
various )ays. !hey provide individual therapy for the child; consult )ith the child2s
teacher about the most effective )ays to facilitate the child2s communication in the class
setting; and )or1 closely )ith the family to develop goals and techni0ues for effective
therapy in class and at home. !echnology can help children )hose physical conditions
ma1e communication difficult. !he use of electronic communication systems allo)
nonspea1ing people and people )ith severe physical disabilities to engage in the give and
ta1e of shared thought.
>ocabulary and concept gro)th continues during the years children are in school.
+eading and )riting are taught and, as students get older, the understanding and use of
language becomes more comple9. 'ommunication s1ills are at the heart of the education
e9perience. Speech and/or language therapy may continue throughout a student2s school
year either in the form of direct therapy or on a consultant basis. !he speech-language
pathologist may assist vocational teachers and counselors in establishing communication
goals related to the )or1 e9periences of students and suggest strategies that are effective
for the important transition from school to employment and adult life.
'ommunication has many components. All serve to increase the )ay people learn about
the )orld around them, utili-e 1no)ledge and s1ills, and interact )ith colleagues, family
and friends.
%er1o)it-, S. (3446). ;!he cleft palate story: A primer for parents of children )ith cleft
lip and palate.; 'hicago, #$: ?uintessence. (!elephone: 3-@77-AB3-75@C.)
%ernthal, D.*. E %an1son, &.<. (3445). ;Articulation and phonological disorders; (5rd
ed.). *ngle)ood 'liffs, &D: :rentice Fall. (Available from :rentice Fall, *ngle)ood
'liffs, &D 7CA5B. !elephone: 3-@77-46C-CC77.)
%eu1elman, .+., E Girenda, :. (344B). ;Augmentative and alternative communication:
Ganagement of severe communication disorders in children and adults.; %altimore, G:
:aul F. %roo1es. (!elephone: 3-@77-A5@-5CC=.)
Alliance for !echnology Access
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