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Speech Disorders

What are Speech Disorders?

There are several types of speech disorders. Different speech disorders may stem from various medical or developmental conditions.

Speech Sound Disorder

An individual with a speech disorder may have a problem with producing different sounds; this disorder is also known as an articulation problem.

Articulation disorder

When an adult has difficulty producing speech sounds, or makes mistakes by substituting sounds, leaving sounds out, adding sounds or changing sounds, which affect the clarity of his speech, he is said to have a speech sound or articulation disorder.

Typically, when children first learn to talk, they do not know how to make all the different sounds in their language. This is considered normal. However, by the age of 4, children can produce most speech sounds, some errors may still occur, but by school age, they should be producing all the sounds of their language correctly. If they still have one or more speech sound errors then they should be referred to a speech language pathologist for an evaluation.

What causes articulation disorders?

Most speech sounds, articulation disorders occur without a known cause. Some children fail to develop the correct speech sounds on their own, and need professional intervention to help them correct any articulation errors. Some speech sound disorders are caused by hearing loss of varying severity, developmental disorders (for example autism) or genetic syndromes (for example Down's syndrome). They can also be caused by illness, or by neurological disorders (e.g. cerebral palsy).

Can it be treated?

You can help your very young child say sounds correctly by setting a good example. It is better not to speak "baby talk" to your child and when he says a wrong sound, be positive and repeat the word correctly and with emphasis.

If your child persists to have articulation problems (not saying speech sounds correctly), it is recommended that you take him to a speech language pathologist for an evaluation and for treatment. The earlier a child receives treatment the easier it is to correct the problem.

Adults also can be treated despite their age and the delayed intervention, however, if there are no other factors causing the articulation problem and if they are very motivated, treatment can be successful.

Voice Disorders

What is Voice?

Voice is the sound produced by the vibration of the vocal folds in the larynx when pressurized air flow is exhaled from the lungs. Each person's voice is unique to them like their fingerprints.

What is Voice Disorders?

A voice disorder occurs when a person feels discomfort in the throat when speaking, or when there are problems with the pitch (the highness or lowness of the sound produced in a given frequency), or the loudness, or the quality of their voice.

What are the causes of Voice Disorders?

Many voice disorders remain unrecognized because they may occur after a cold or flu. Also, many people are not aware that treatment is available for individuals with voice problems.

Voice disorders can occur as a result of misuse of the vocal folds (e.g. screaming, and speaking loudly or over stressing the voice to emphasize). Also, smoking as well as drinking can cause voice problems. There are many medical conditions that can cause voice disorders such as strokes, Parkinson's disease, Lou Gherig's disease, multiple sclerosis all of which can cause paralysis or weakness of the vocal chords. Tumors and cancers of the larynx can also cause voice problems which can lead to surgical removal of part, or the entire the larynx. Untreated gastroesophageal reflux may also cause voice problems.

Voice disorders can occur in children, and the causes are not usually malignant nor life threatening. However, they also need to be attended to.

Can Voice Disorders be treated?

If you suspect that you or your child has a voice problem, you should consult an otolaryngologist (Ear Nose Throat specialist) who will ensure that you do not have a serious condition that needs medical attention. After seeing the medical doctor, it is advisable to see a speech language pathologist who specializes in voice therapy. Many voice disorders can be successfully treated with voice therapy; others are treated through a combination of voice therapy and medical or surgical intervention.

A speech language pathologist can teach you strategies to help you avoid voice abuse and maintain a healthy use of your voice.


What is stuttering?

Stuttering also known as stammering. A communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by prolongations of the sounds, by repetitions, or by abnormal stoppage, that occur in the middle of speech when the speaker produces no sound.

What causes stuttering?

There are several factors that can cause stuttering. Stuttering can be genetic, e.g. it can run in families, it can be developmental (some children who have speech and language problems are likely to be disfluent), it can be due to neurological factors, a lack of coordination of the speech muscles, and/or it can be due to stress. Stuttering can also be as a result of several of these factors.

Many world famous people such as Winston Churchill and King George V1 of England had a stuttering problem.

Can it be treated?

Stuttering may appear at a very early age, between the ages of two years and 5 years, it can disappear by the time the child is ready for school. However, it may occasionally appear at that later age. In either case, it is advised to see a speech language pathologist as soon as you suspect that your child may have a stuttering problem. Stuttering is a behavior that can be controlled, and there are several successful treatment approaches; the importance of early intervention cannot be over emphasized.

(For more information you can visit American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)).

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