Sound Mix-ups (Phonological Processes)


Sometimes, children will substitute certain sounds for others, for example they might pronounce all ‘k’ sounds as ‘t’ and therefore “car” is pronounced as “tar”. This substitution of sounds is called a ‘phonological process’. It is normal for children to use these sound substitutions as their speech develops, however sometimes children continue to substitute these sounds as they get older and require therapy to learn to make a distinction between different speech sounds. Phonological processes are not due to a difficulty articulating a certain sound, but rather a difficulty organising the patterns of sound in the brain and recognising which sounds belong in which words. Children with phonological processes are still developing their understanding that each sound needs to be distinct from other sounds in order for us to be understood. For example, a child with the phonological process called ‘velar fronting’ will substitute ‘k’ sounds with ‘t’ sounds, so, as stated in the example above, will pronounce “car” as “tar”. However, if asked to say “k” by itself, the child is able to do so correctly. Therefore, the difficulty is not due to difficulty articulating the ‘k’ sound, but rather difficulty recognising that the word ‘car’ starts with a ‘k’ sound, not a ‘t’ sound.


Why is it important to see a Speech Pathologist for Sound mix-ups (Phonological Processes)?

As mentioned above, Phonological Processes are a normal stage in speech development. However, Phonological Processes which do not begin to resolve by themselves may leave your child mispronouncing words long term. In these instances, speech therapy is important to build the child’s understanding of the different sounds within words. This is not only important for their communication, but also necessary in order to develop strong reading and spelling skills. A Speech Pathologist will assess your child’s speech to identify the sounds that your child is having trouble with. Based on the observations made during the assessment, the Speech Pathologist will discuss the recommended management for your child’s difficulties.


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