Or the child may distort the sound slightly. Some children appear to have the ability to say sounds some of the time, but not all of the time. This makes them very difficult to understand, as the inconsistency does not let the listen cue into their pattern of errors. A few children use only a small number of sounds, making their speech patterns sound the same for all sentences. Other children may say a word once and never say it again.
Anytime a child omits sounds consistently, an articulation problem is occurring. Hearing should be evaluated as soon as possible. Substitutions and distortions do not necessarily mean a speech problem exists. The sound(s) in question and the age of the child determine the presence of an articulation disorder. Children who have a lot of variability in their speech sound production and are not understood usually are experiencing a more involved problem, such as “phonological processing disorder” or “apraxia”.
The diagnosis of articulation problems is handled differently depending on the setting in which a speech-language pathologist works. Most problems can be helped regardless of age, but the longer the problem persists, the harder it is to change.
Many parents are concerned with prolonged thumb or finger sucking. These habits deform the dental arches, often causing “open bites” and hindering normal jaw growth. Possible results include difficulty chewing properly and incorrect sound production during running speech. Frequently the upper front teeth have been pushed forward enough with the tongue protruding through the open teeth to hinder proper nasal breathing, leading to frequent upper respiratory problems. Eliminating sucking habits, preferably during early childhood, helps prevent improper jaw positioning and assist in allowing the permanent teeth to erupt in normal alignment. Eliminating these habits is not an easy task. Punishment, bribing, and coercion are rarely successful. A positive approach is necessary. An evaluation by a speech-language pathologist trained in oral motor therapy would be beneficial. AAC on the Lakeshore can help. Contact me here.