Cleveland speech therapists

Articulation Disorders: An Explainer by Cleveland Speech Therapists

Among the many reasons children are referred to our Cleveland speech therapists are articulation disorders. A child with an articulation disorder has trouble forming speech sounds properly. This is slightly different from phonological disorders, in which a child can produce the correct sounds, but puts them in the wrong place or order.

Both of these are forms of expressive language issues. That is, they pertain to how well a child can communicate with others. This differs from receptive language disorders, wherein a child has trouble understanding what is being communicated with them. Some children struggle with both.

Keep in mind that it’s completely normal for young kids to make speech errors as their language is developing. However, kids with articulation disorders will be tough to understand, even when other kids their age are mostly speaking clearly.

A child with an articulation disorder might:

  • Struggle to make sounds or form particular speech sounds (e.g., their s may sound like a th [“thpoon” instead of “spoon“] or they might have a lisp).
  • Not be able to produce certain sounds (the word “rabbit” becomes “wabbit”).

A child with a phonological disorder might:

  • Be able to make the sounds the letters “g” and “d” make, but might say “doe” instead of “go.”
  • Struggle with certain word sounds; so they might be able to make the hard “k” sound, but will leave it out of certain words (“bye” instead of “bike”).

Kids with phonological disorders usually have trouble with more than just one sound.

Articulation disorders, phonological disorders and phonemic awareness disorders (understanding sounds and sound rules) are associated with language and literacy learning difficulties. Our qualified Cleveland speech therapists can assess a child for concerns about the quality of sounds they’re making, the way they talk and their ability to be understood by others.

How Articulation Disorders are Diagnosed

The first thing your child’s healthcare provider will want to do is check your child’s hearing to ensure he/she isn’t hearing the words/sounds incorrectly. Once hearing loss is ruled out, you will likely be referred to a speech-language pathologist. These are experts who evaluate and treat children (and adults) having difficulty with speech-language and communication.

Our Cleveland speech therapists will engage your child, listen to them speak and determine whether they have a speech sound disorder. We’ll evaluate their skills, keeping in mind any accents and dialogue. We’ll look for any indicators of a physical problem in the mouth that might be impacting your child’s ability to speak. These can include genetic conditions like Down syndrome, developmental disorders like autism or a physical issue like a tongue tie, crossbite, overbite, cleft palate, etc.

Early intervention is key to treating articulation disorders. This is important because:

  • Young children with articulation disorders are at risk of bullying, which can adversely impact academic confidence and overall self-esteem.
  • Older kids and adults with articulation disorders may be stereotyped as less capable or intelligent.
  • Articulation errors can hold adults back in career choices, job promotions, etc.
  • Articulation disorders can distract speakers from the message, resulting in communication breakdowns that can be frustrating for everyone involved.

Although we don’t always know exactly what causes articulation disorders, we can still treat it – and the sooner, the better.

How Cleveland Speech Therapists Can Help

As speech therapists, we work with kids who have articulation disorders and teach them how to correctly produce sounds in their mouth. This can be tough because some kids may have to completely change the way they speak. And then once they learn it, we need to make sure those lessons stick.

We start with practicing how to say the sound just by itself. We’ll progress from there to something we call “nonsense syllables.” These are syllables that don’t really belong to words. For example with the “k” sound, we may practice saying kee, koh, koo, kay, kah, etc. Then we’ll move on to words, then phrases, then sentences and then reading and then conversation.

We use play and positive reinforcement to keep kids engaged and learning throughout.

If you think your child has an articulation disorder or phonological disorder, we can help.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cleveland. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

Speech Sound Disorders – Articulation and Phonology, ASHA

More Blog Entries:

Speech Therapy Top Picks: Low-Tech Gifts for Language Learning, Dec. 9, 2020, Cleveland Speech Therapists Blog