February 1, 2024

Articulation Disorders vs. Phonological Processing Disorders

Articulation Disorder. Phonological Process. What’s the difference between these two terms, and why is it important to understand how they are different?

Articulation Disorder. Phonological Process. What’s the difference between these two terms, and why is it important to understand how they are different?

Articulation Disorder:

An Articulation Disorder involves difficulties producing sounds. Sounds may be substituted, omitted, added or deleted in an articulation disorder. For example, a child who says “dut” for “duck” is substituting the sound “t” for the sound “k.”

An articulation disorder can make it difficult for a child to be understood by others and can impact social interactions, school participation and academics (i.e. reading, writing, phonological awareness skills). Many children make speech errors, so it’s important to consider the age range during which children develop each sound when determining if sound substitutions are age-appropriate. The child may have an articulation disorder if these errors continue past the expected age of mastery. Click here to see our blog on typical speech sound development for more information.

In addition, it’s also important to consider dialects and accents when considering articulation disorders and speech sound errors. For example, the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) provides the example that speakers of “African American Vernacular English (AAVE) may use a “d” sound for a “th” sound (e.g., “dis” for “this”). This is not a speech sound disorder, but rather one of the phonological features of AAVE.”

Phonological Processing Disorder:

If a child’s speech sound substitutions involve a pattern of sound errors (i.e. substituting the “t” sound for the “k” sound consistently in all contexts), the child may have a Phonological Processing Disorder. If the phonological process persists past when it is expected to be extinguished, the child may have a phonological processing disorder. For more information on when phonological disorders are typically extinguished, please click here to see our blog on Phonological Process Extinction.

Understanding the difference between these two terms is important for speech therapy! Speech therapy for an articulation disorder will focus on the specific sound(s) with which a child is having difficulty. The therapy will work through a hierarchy of complexity until mastery of the sound is achieved (i.e. sound level—> syllable level—> word level—> phrase level—> reading—> structured conversation—> unstructured conversation—> SUCCESS! Sound is mastered!) Speech therapy for phonological processes, however, will often target a class of sounds (i.e. the “k” sound and the “g” sound simultaneously) while still moving through the hierarchy until mastery is achieved.

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