When children attend a speech assessment with a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) their difficulty with sounds will be considered a speech sound disorder. Speech sound disorder is an umbrella term and can be branched off into two different categories: phonological errors and articulation errors. It is important to know what errors your child presents with because each has a different treatment approach and a different way to practice at home. It is also important to note that some children will display both types of errors and require more than one treatment approach.
When children present with phonological errors this means they have altered an entire process (group of sounds) rather than just an individual sound. These errors are predictable, and rule based. Children with phonological errors will apply their own rule to a group of sounds. For example, when a child says only one sound in a consonant cluster (i.e., “pin” for “spin”) this is called cluster reduction. They have altered the rules in this process to only produce one sound rather than two. Another example is when children consistently leave off the end sound in words (i.e., “cu” for “cup”) this is called final consonant deletion. There are many other processes that children can have difficulty with. Children who have phonological errors are often much harder to understand. Treatment focuses on teaching the correct way to produce the process rather than individual sounds.
Articulation errors refer to children only having a handful of sounds in error. These errors cannot be described as a process as they are only applying that rule to one individual sound rather than a group. For example, if a child says “wion” for “lion” but presents no other speech errors, the child is substituting “w” for “l” and would be an articulation error. When children have articulation errors, they can often be understood much easier than those with phonological errors. Articulation treatment focuses on producing that individual sound correctly until it reaches conversation level.
Knowing what type of errors your child has will help you understand their speech difficulty and therefore be able to help them more when practicing at home. More successful practice at home will result in faster generalization of the sound or process into conversation, the end goal of any treatment for speech sound disorders!
Blog post by Registered Speech Language Pathologist, Kristen Lipp