Articulation is the process by which sounds, syllables, and words are formed when the tongue, jaw, teeth, lips, and palate alter the air stream coming from the vocal folds. Articulation errors are normal and are not always a cause for concern. However, the following are warning signs that your child may need speech therapy:
1. Family members/friends have difficulty understanding your child;
2. Your child is becoming frustrated because others don't understand him/her; and
3. Your child has no signs of frustration when speaking, but you don't understand his/her speech.
A formal articulation evaluation with a licensed and certified Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) should include a thorough oral-motor mechanism exam to identify deviations in anatomical structures or physiological conditions that may be causing the errors, if any. In addition, the evaluation will identify all of the errors being made by your child. The SLP will then analyze the errors and determine whether there is a pattern. Error patterns are indicative of a more advanced articulation disorder known as phonological processing which iswhen the errors occur across sounds with similar features such as place, manner or voicing.
Phonological processes are also very common, but because they affect multiple sounds, they can make children with processes especially unintelligible. Once the particular error is identified, the multiple errors can be treated simultaneously.