Articulation (pronunciation) difficulties
Articulation (pronunciation) difficulties are difficulties using the articulators (tongue, teeth, lips, palate or jaw) to produce a sound. Articulation difficulties are motor difficulties, meaning that the problem is due to a difficulty with moving the articulators in the correct manner. A common articulation error is difficulty articulating the ‘s’ sound correctly. Often, people who have trouble with the articulation of ‘s’ sounds produce the sound with the tongue pushed between the teeth. This causes the ‘s’ sound to sound ‘slushy’, almost like a ‘th’ sound (sometimes referred to as an ‘interdental lisp’). It is quite normal for children to have difficulty pronouncing some sounds correctly as they learn to speak. For example ‘th’ and ‘r’ sounds are more difficult sounds and children may have trouble pronouncing these sounds correctly up until around 6-7 years of age. The chart below outlines the ages at which children usually develop the correct articulation of each speech sound when used at the start of words:
By 2 years of age B, d, h, m, n, p
By 3 years of age F, g, k, t, w
By 4 years of age kw
By 5 years of age Ch, y, l, s, sh, bl, j
By 6 years of age R, v, br, dr, fl, fr, gl, gr, kl, kr, pl, st, tr
By 7 years Z, sl, sp, sw, th
Information used to create this chart was obtained from the Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation-2 (GFTA-2) 2000.
· The acquisition of sounds does vary slightly from child to child. However, the above chart is a useful guide to identify if your child is falling behind in their articulation development. If your child is not able to articulate the sounds listed for their age group, contact a Speech Pathologist.
Why is it important to see a Speech Pathologist for articulation difficulties?
· Articulation difficulties can cause your child’s speech to be difficult for others to understand. This can make it hard for them to communicate effectively with others and may impact on their self-esteem. Articulation difficulties can also impact on the child’s development of strong reading and spelling skills in the school years. If the child has difficulty articulating a word correctly, it can become difficult to then sound the word out correctly when trying to spell it.
· A Speech Pathologist will assess your child’s articulation to identify the sounds that your child is having trouble with. The Speech Pathologist will evaluate your child’s oral motor skills (movement of their tongue, lips, palate and jaw) to determine if there are any abnormalities which may be causing/contributing to the articulation difficulty. This may include looking for signs of a tongue tie and making sure the soft palate opens and closes when the child produces different sounds. The Speech Pathologist will also evaluate the appearance of your child’s articulators, paying particular attention to the shape/positioning of your child’s teeth, the size of their tonsils and the appearance of their soft and hard palate.
· Based on the observations made during the assessment, the Speech Pathologist will discuss the recommended management for your child’s difficulties.