We do come across children who have difficulty in saying particular speech sounds or “totla” as we say in India. Some may show difficulty in blends (two consonants that come together, example: Straw), some show difficulty in sounds like “p” in “Parrot” and others may have more difficulties.

When a child is growing, he/she is discovering the movements of the speech musculature for articulation (known as articulators). Over a period of time the articulators are able to articulate speech sounds that are easy (p, b, m, n) and gradually moving on to tougher sounds (r, l, s). Studies have shown that speech sounds are usually developing and a child acquires all of the speech sounds around the age of 5 to 6 years. Some studies have also shown that some children acquire these sounds in the form of blends by the age of 8.

The term ‘misarticulations’ means that a person cannot say speech sound(s) correctly. These errors can be noticed in various levels of speech. (Single Word, phrases, while reading, conversation, etc.) and at different position of the sound (for example: parrot, compulsory and top. The highlighted ‘p’ refers to the initial, medial and final position of the sounds). Each sound has a typical character.

There are 8 reasons as to why a child may be facing a difficulty in articulation:

1. Rate of Speech:

The faster you speak; the clarity of speech deteriorates. This is simply because we give less time for our articulators to complete their movements in order for a sound to be said correctly. This leads to reduced mouth opening for speech and it constraints the movements of the articulators. Some children, or even adults have a fast rate of speech. This is one of the reasons why the person tends to misarticulate. This can also be seen in children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders. Even adults, who wish to have better speech while giving lectures, conducting a meeting, or speaking in general should keep this in mind.

2. Ankyloglossia:

Commonly known as “Tongue-tie”. Many people assume that because the child has a tongue tie or the tongue is stuck to the floor of the month, he or she cannot speak. This does not hold true. Not everyone who has limited tongue movements cannot speak. There are people with tongue ties who can articulate perfectly without the need of an operation. Only if the person has difficulty in swallowing or speech is affected at a severe level, a consideration can be made to release the tie.

3. Hearing Loss:

Yes, you read that correctly. The speech sounds that are used in speaking spread across a frequency. Frequency refers to the number of cycles per second. Each sound is made up of different frequencies, thereby spreading across from rambling sounds (low frequency) to sizzling sounds (high frequency). If a child has an ear infection right from an early age, it can affect the sounds in the low frequency (m, n, v, g). Sometimes, a minimal to mild loss in the high frequency can also go unnoticed resulting in misarticulations for sounds in the high frequency (s, f, th). A golden rule to be remembered, if he cannot hear the sound, how do we expect him to say it with ease?

4. Sensory Issues:

There are cases when the child has no hearing loss, no tongue tie, no weakness in the articulators, nothing evident. These children simply have difficulty in understanding the difference between a letter and the sound corresponding to them (for example the alphabet B has the sound of ब). In such cases, intensive therapy will be required for the child to understand the difference between letters and sounds, to distinguish among speech sounds, understand the correct placement of the articulator for a sound and to then articulate them correctly


5. Dentition:

As a child is growing up, his/her milk teeth start to get replaced by permanent teeth. This sometimes leads to misarticulations which is simply caused due to the lack of teeth present for saying a particular sound. The child will be knowing the exact placement of the articulator and has an idea that he is saying it incorrectly. The absence of the tooth/teeth in a particular area leads to less pressure required for the articulators to articulate.

6. Weak Musculature:

Children who have weak movements of the tongue, soft palate, cannot puff their cheeks, etc., have difficulty in articulation. Those with Cleft-Lip and Palate, Cerebral Palsy, or sometimes have no known cause need exercises to develop strength in the muscles. Increased range of movements lead to more flexibility of the sounds.

7. By Imitation:

Yes, some children pick up speech from persons who are misarticulating themselves. The child could probably not be knowing the difference between what is correct and what is incorrect. These errors can be easily rectified.

8. Delayed Development:

It does not always happen that child is delayed in his language development will have a difficulty in articulating. But there are instances that with a delay in language leads to a delay in his clarity of speech. With appropriate training, the misarticulations can be resolved.

Some errors disappear with time; however, some stay and do not fade with time. If they persist, then consult a speech-language pathologist at the earliest. With correct guidance, you will be able to overcome your difficulty and have a CLEAR SPEECH!

Until next time.:)




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