A speech sound disorder occurs when a child has difficulty producing speech sounds beyond the age when they are expected. (See Developmental Sound Acquisition Chart for English or Chinese). A child with mild speech disorder may only have trouble making certain sounds or switching sounds around such as saying ”dat” for cat. A child with more severe speech disorder often will have difficulty being understood or uses few sounds and mostly communicate by pulling a parent’s hand to things, may grunt or scream, but often refuses to repeat words when asked.
There are several terminologies out there referring to speech sound disorders. Their terms reflect what are believed to be the cause or causes of this difficulty in children. They are Motor Speech Disorders (muscles involved in speaking), Articulation Difficulties (production of sounds) and Phonology (sound system of a language).
- Frequent upper respiratory congestions, especially ear infections or just “glue ears” (fluids accumulated in the ear) during infancy and toddler hood.
- Hearing Loss
- Low or high muscle tones (may have overall muscle tone disturbance or just isolated difficulty with fine motor movements such as hands and mouth)
- Neurological conditions that affect muscle tones and brain learning (cognitive skills) such as Autistic Spectrum Disorders/Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Down Syndromes, and Cerebral Palsy.
- Premature birth, particularly those with prolonged stay in the Neonatal Intensive Units and had great difficulty with oral feeding.
- Atypical environment such as being raised in an orphanage or from an abusive/neglect family
In addition to limited speech development and speech clarity, you may also see:
a) Difficulty or inconsistent responses to his or her own names.
b) Delayed developmental milestones.
c) Poor oral feeding (such as very slow or picky eater, does not chew very well), and having trouble learning to lick or blow.
d) Child may invent own “sign language”, use gestures more than words to communicate.
e) Child may make lots of sounds and jargons but little recognizable words
f) Substituting or distortion of sounds (errors may be consistent, but sometimes not).