Phonological Processes

We must understand phonological processes first to fully understand phonological disorders.

So what are theses processes? They are the natural way children simplify language as they learn to speak. Speaking like an adult takes quite a bit of coordination of our tongue, lips, and vocal tract. Therefore, as children learn to speak they will naturally simplify words to make it easier. These processes are normal and expected!

For example, one common process is called "final consonant deletion." A child who uses this process will delete the last syllable of multi-syllabic words. He or she may say "wa" for "water." This is normal and usually disappears by 3 years of age.

When does it turn into a phonological disorder?

Phonological disorders occur when the processes persist past the age when they are suppose to disappear. The link below takes you to a chart of common processes and the age when they are supposed to disappear.

Click this link now if you want a quick review of phonological processes.

What does therapy look like for a phonological disorder?

Therapy for a phonological disorder will look a lot like articulation therapy to a non-speech pathologist. Your child will work on the pronunciation of sounds within words and sentences. However, your child will work on the persisting processes instead of specific sounds 

For example, your child may be demonstrating a process called "fronting." This means that your child may be moving all of his or her back sounds (/g/ or /k/) to the front of their mouth. Your child may say "doal" for "goal." During therapy, your child will work on bringing those "back" sounds to the "back."

Key Characteristics of Phonological Disorders

Articulation disorders and phonological disorders are very similar. Therefore, they are often confused and misdiagnosed. Some key characteristics of phonological disorders include:

  1. Significant unintelligibility
  2. Unusual articulation errors
  3. No expressive and/or receptive language delays
  4. Common patterns of speech errors.

This list is not exhaustive. If you suspect a problem, please contact a speech language pathologist for an evaluation.

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Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference.

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