What is a Speech and Language Disorder?

Speech and language disorders affect communication and learning. They affect the way the child expresses ideas and understands what has been said.

Types of Disorders

  • Articulation Disorders: Children with articulation problems cannot produce certain speech sounds either in isolation or within blends with other speech sounds. Difficulties with the way sounds are formed and strung together, usually characterized by substituting one sound for another (wabbit for rabbit), omitting a sound (han for hand) or distorting a sound such as “sip” for ship. Whether misarticulating is considered to constitute a speech disorder depends on the child’s age and what is appropriate for that level of development.
  • Phonological Processes/Oral Apraxia: Difficulty with blending and sequencing production of sound. Often with additional oral motor weaknesses.
  • Delayed Language: Characterized by a marked slowness in the development of the vocabulary and grammar necessary for expressing (expressive vocabulary) and understanding (receptive vocabulary) thoughts and ideas.
  • Phonemic Awareness: Difficulty discriminating and manipulating individual phonemes (sounds) in order to produce fluent reading decoding.
  • Reading Comprehension and Written Expression: Difficulty with reading comprehension or expressing ideas in written form secondary to underlying language weaknesses.
  • Pragmatics/Social Skills: Weakness in the many skills necessary to negotiate daily social interactions.
  • Fluency: An interruption in the flow or rhythm of speech characterized by hesitations, repetitions or prolongation of sounds, syllables, words or phrases.
  • Voice Disorders: A child’s voice is determined by age, sex, emotions, and situations, and changes rapidly as the child grows. A child may speak with inappropriate pitch (too high, too low, never changing or interrupted by breaks); loudness (too loud or not loud enough); or quality (harsh, hoarse, breathy, or nasal). The quality of the voice may be hyper nasal as when sounds are emitted through the nose, or denasal sounding as though the child has a stuffed nose. Breathiness and harshness may be to improper use of vocal cords. Prolonged hoarseness or harshness of the voice may indicate a possible medical problem and an Otolaryngology examination may be recommended.

General Developmental Milestones in Language Development

Receptive Language
Expressive Language
3 Months
  • Child smiles when spoken to
  • Child stops playing and appears to listen to sound or speech
  • Child babbles
  • Cries differently for different needs
6 Months
  • Child responds to “no” and his/her name
  • Child notices and looks around for source of new sound.
  • Child babbles frequently and notices lots of different sounds
1 Year
  • Identifies common objects by pointing
  • Gives toy upon request
  • Has speaking vocabulary of 5 – 10 words
  • Names common objects
2 Years
  • Follows one-step commands
  • Demonstrates an understanding of several action verbs
  • Uses vocabulary of 50 or more words
  • Combines two or more words for simple sentences
  • Gives full name
  • Uses plurals
3 Years
  • Understands simple questions
  • Recognizes at least two colors
  • Converses in simple sentences
  • Counts to 5
  • Vocabulary of 1,500 words
4 Years
  • Comprehends right and left
  • Follows 3 part commands
  • Knows pictures that don’t belong in a category
  • Can describe feelings with abstract words
  • Correct usage of all parts of speech
5 Years
  • Understands number concepts of 3
  • Can identify four colors
  • Can give simple definitions
  • Can repeat 10-word sentences verbatim