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Common Speech Disorders in Children and How to Recognize Them 

Young child speaking with letters in the background

The mechanisms that humans use to speak are far more intricate than first meets the eye. Just like human anatomy in general, the inner workings required for us to conceptualize what we want to say and form it into syllables and sounds require cooperation from stomach muscles, tongue, lips, nose,  larynx, and the coordination of the brain.

A lag or change in a child’s way of speaking or speech pattern can be disconcerting for parents. The good news is that the area of speech pathology has improved and mastered working through speech impediments with children.  Here at Pasitos Clinic, we employ speech therapists that specialize in working with children that have various speech impediments. 

Common Speech Impediments and Disorders in Children 

Human speech is complex; it’s like a machine and when one gear is off, it can throw off the entire operation. Common speech impediments in children include: 

  • Apraxia of Speech: For a thought to come out as speech, it requires that the message travel from the brain to your mouth. Apraxia refers to when that message is not getting through. In other words, the neural pathway between the brain and a person’s speech function is lost. Apraxia of speech can be very frustrating because children know what they want to say and can even write it down, but the brain is unable to send the necessary signals to turn this into speech. The signs and symptoms of this speech disorder include a variation in how the child speaks, putting stress in the wrong syllables, distorts, or changes sounds. It might also affect a child’s fine motor skills and manifest in delayed language or problems with reading and writing. With consistent and effective speech therapy, Apraxia can improve considerably and even become undetectable.
  • Stuttering and stammering: This is one of the most common and easily recognizable speech disorders. It is estimated that three million Americans stutter. Stuttering can become apparent as early as when a child is learning to speak. Stuttering can become disruptive to a child’s social interactions and normal activities. Working with a speech-language pathologist will help work on the problem and help a child get over the stuttering.
  • Lisping: This is the common way of referring to the recognizable way of speaking associated with the well-known lisp. There are different kinds including the frontal lisp, a lateral lisp, or palatal lisps. These are functional speech disorders that can greatly benefit from the work of a speech-language pathologist. Many times, lisps can be linked to misaligned teeth or jaw alignment problems.
  • Dysarthria: This condition is typically the result of nerve or muscle damage. It can be characterized as slurred speech, slowed speech, or abnormal rhythm of speaking. In children, this mostly develops in those with motor impairments, a condition the muscles needed for speech.
  • Aphasia: This disorder affects the brain’s language capability centers and thus makes speech very difficult. Aphasia will affect a child’s ability to use words and express ideas, as well as understanding other people’s speech. This condition, however, is mostly a result of stroke, traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, and other serious changes to the brain.

So How Can I Tell If My Child Has a Speech Disorder? 

Because children are all different and develop in different ways, it can be difficult to determine if your child has a disorder or is simply shy or a little behind. Here are a few things to look out for: 

  • Stuttering: This can be an easily identifiable speech problem. This doesn’t mean that your child has an actual speech disorder, but it can be a sign. Children that stutter often repeat whole words. Speech becomes difficult and they may even avoid speech altogether. 
  • Inconsistent voice quality: Some children will manifest their difficulties through their voice and inability to control volume. This also includes putting emphasis on the wrong syllables of a word. 
  • You notice your child avoiding speaking altogether. If a baby or small toddler doesn’t acknowledge when someone else is speaking or appears to be following, this may indicate that a child is not understanding other people’s language. Similarly, if your child avoids speaking, this may be a red flag or something to look out for. 
  • Your child has hearing loss or hearing disorder. Problems with hearing can result in speech impediments or deficiencies. It’s important to have your child checked for these. 

When caught early, these speech impediments can be mitigated and often eliminated with consistent and effective speech therapy. A speech therapist is trained in understanding the complex mechanisms of speech and the varying disorders that develop. 

Think Your Child Has Problems Speaking? Talk to a Speech Pathologist Today 

A delay in speech or a speech disorder can greatly affect a child’s confidence level, performance at school, and even their ability to make friends. When left untreated, speech disorders disrupt a child’s healthy development. As the National Institute of Health reports, the effects of speech sound disorder can carry on into adulthood and be disruptive in their lifestyle. If you think your child suffers from a speech disorder, contact Pasitos Clinic in El Paso today. Our friendly speech pathologists are here to help you and your child thrive!

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