What’s the Difference Between Articulation and Phonological Disorders in Children?
Most young children go through a developmental phase in which they make phonetic errors in speech. You might remember your toddler or three-year-old substituting one sound for another, such as saying “weave” for “leave” or they leave out a consonant and restructure the word when two consonants are formed together at the beginning like, “boo” for “blue.”
While most articulation and phonology disorders are developmental, meaning that as they age they outgrow them, some articulation and phonology disorders are not.
Characteristics of Articulation Disorders
An articulation disorder is a speech disorder that occurs at the phonetic level. If a child is having problems making sounds, it is likely an articulation disorder. They may leave out sounds altogether or substitute one sound for another. They may also add or change sounds. A child that has an articulation disorder has difficulty saying certain vowels and consonants.
At the core of an articulation disorder, the focus is on the motor act of producing vowel and consonant sounds.
Phonological Disorders at a Glance
A phonological disorder is one that happens at the phonemic level (in the mind). But a phonological disorder is more commonly referred to as taking place at a “cognitive” or “linguistic” level. It’s a speech sound disorder that can often cause problems with reading and writing skills.
Cognitive-linguistic deficits in school and phonological disorders tend to go hand-in-hand with later reading and writing skills if not caught early on.
Clarity of the Terminology
The biggest difficulty in determining between articulation and a phonological disorder relies heavily on the terminology and variances in how the two are described. But if we can remember that articulation relies on the motor act, or phonetic act of producing sounds, and a phonological disorder has more to do with cognitive-linguistic ability and the rules of language, we gain clarity into what to look for when assessing a child with a sound speech disorder.
Both articulation and phonology disorders are referred to as sound speech disorders in a very general sense. If you are curious as to whether it is possible for a child to have both disorders at the same time, the answer is a resounding yes!
When therapy is recommended, current research and speech-language pathologists agree therapy should begin before age seven.