Fort Myers speech therapist

Fort Myers Speech Therapist Insight: What’s a Speech Sound Disorder and How Do You Treat It?

It’s estimated that about one in a dozen kids in the U.S. between the ages of 3 and 17 has some type of disorder related to speech, voice, language or swallowing. Roughly 5 percent have a speech disorder specifically. When we look at even younger kids, it’s about 9 percent. Children who have speech sound disorders struggle to form speech sounds. They have trouble articulating individual sounds, being understood, modulating speech, they might stutter, have a lisp, etc. When it comes to speech sound disorders, working with a skilled, creative pediatric Fort Myers speech therapist can make all the difference.

About Speech Sound Disorders

Kids with speech sound disorders don’t have difficulty understanding language. What they struggle with is expressing language in the sounds of speech at a level that is age-appropriate.

As a Fort Myers speech therapist can explain, speech sound disorders are characterized by regular trouble producing speech sounds. That can mean several different things, including:

  • Phonological problems. This is when one has a tough time producing certain sounds or sound blends.
  • Vocal apparatus problems. This would be if someone has issues with their larynx or lungs that makes producing certain sounds difficult.
  • Speech timing issues. This would be if a child has difficulty with their vowel onset time, vowel duration, consonant closure duration or voicing during consonant closure.
  • Speech difficulty. This would be issues like stuttering or lisping.

Typically, we can classify a speech sound disorder either as a “phonological disorder” or an “articulation disorder.”

Kids often say sounds the wrong way when they’re first learning to talk. This is totally normal. Lots of toddlers can say sounds like w, m or p pretty early on, but struggle to master sounds like th, v or z. The majority of kids can say pretty much all of their speech sounds correctly by the time they’re about 4. If a child is struggling with these sounds beyond 4 or 5, they may have a speech sound disorder.

We should note that adults can have speech sound disorders too – some stemming from issues they’ve had since they were little. Other times, it could be due to something like a brain injury or stroke. Although we solely treat children at our Southwest Florida clinic, the former underscores the fact that early intervention is important with sound disorders. People may be able to “get through life” with a sound disorder, but learning to overcome it can make such a huge difference in academic success, social interactions and self-esteem.

How Do I Know if My Child Has a Sound Disorder?

Know that it’s very normal for kids to say the wrong sounds sometimes. (Think “wed” for “red.”) They might leave out some sounds. (Think “nana” for “banana.”) When they’re little, this is totally Ok. The issue is if these mistakes keep cropping up as they get older.

Usually by age 1, they’re babbling strings of sounds like bababa, upup, mimi or mama. By the time they get to age 3, they’re using b, d, f, g, h, k, m, n, p, t and w in words. Those who are familiar with the child will understand them. When they get to 4, they’ll be saying the y and v in words. Most people understand them, though they might still make errors on sounds like r, s, ch, sh, ng, j, th, z and l.

There are a lot of different reasons why a child might have a speech sound disorder. Sometimes it’s weakness in muscles needed to make speech sounds (dysarthria). Other times it’s the brain having trouble sending messages to the muscles in speech telling them when/how to move (apraxia). Sometimes, another underlying condition such as Down syndrome or autism or hearing loss or cerebral palsy might explain it. In some cases, it can be an early sign that a child will have dyslexia. Whatever the cause and regardless of the complexity, our speech therapy team at FOCUS is prepared to help your child work through it and overcome it.

How a Fort Myers Speech Therapist Can Help

Speech-language pathologists (or SLPs for short) at FOCUS can test your child’s speech, listening carefully to how he/she says sounds, how their lips, jaw and tongue move and assess the strength of their language skills. (You may also be referred to an audiologist, just to ensure hearing loss is not a factor because if so, our approach for treatment will likely differ.)

In helping helping children to make sounds clearly and correctly, we incorporate proven clinical strategies with a fun, creative approach to help the child:

  • Learn the right way to make those sounds.
  • Known when the sound they are making is correct or incorrect.
  • Practice the sounds with which they’re struggling in many different words.
  • Practice those sounds in longer sentences.

We are committed to helping each and every child succeed. When the parents are fully on-board as well, children with speech sound disorders thrive.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Speech Sound Disorders, American Speech-Language Hearing Association

More Blog Entries:

Why Speech Pathologists Focus So Much on “WH” Questions With Kids, Jan. 20, 2021, Fort Myers Speech Therapist Blog

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