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What It Means to Have an Articulation Disorder

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Articulation disorder is a speech disorder that causes difficulties in “the way sounds are formed and strung together, usually characterized by substituting one sound for another, omitting a sound or  distorting a sound.” This makes communication challenging, especially for younger children. Even asking for help can be difficult, particularly in a new situation. It is characterized by very slurred speech, which is difficult to understand. While those with this disorder are hard to understand when they speak, they understand language quite well.

The tricky part of this disorder is that it is often caused by other physical or neurological problems that also need to be treated. Treatment is sometimes delayed; however, speech therapy should be set up as soon as you notice problems, as delaying treatment can lead to less positive outcomes.

To help in overcoming this disorder it you should read to your children in the beginning years. While this is important for all children, it is especially important for those with articulation issues. Reading out loud helps them hear and remember words and their meanings. Besides reading books, educational games at home can also help  a great deal as the child will be having fun and may not realize that they are learning. Even a game like Scrabble can help a lot as they are creating words, and you can have the child say the word out loud, thus helping their articulation.

As children get older the disorder can become more of a challenge as they see that their speech is very different from the majority of their classmates. For example, if it is their turn to present in front of the classroom and their speech can be hard to understand, regretfully not everyone will be empathic about it. As a result, this can lead to self-esteem issues.

Studies show stress can make speech harder to understand. This makes the teenage years especially hard. For example, teens are now expected to express their needs and thoughts on their own, which is hard to do with articulation difficulties. This can lead to a lot of frustration and misunderstanding and in some cases bullying.

As someone who has articulation difficulties, I know well about the challenges you can face. In many cases it doesn’t go away, it only becomes more manageable. For me personally what brings the most frustration is having to repeat myself when doing something like ordering food. Especially if I need to repeat myself more than twice. Thankfully from being connected with others through sports and other activities I have learned how to communicate better and am conscious about the way I am pronouncing sounds. For me, only new situations are harder. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be involved in school or community activities as those around you become more comfortable with your speech; it also gives you the confidence to improve it.

Thankfully speech therapy is very effective for treating deficits in pronunciation, motor related challenges and understanding language. Therapies focus on practicing the motor skills involved in forming and vocalizing certain sounds, learning rules of speech and applying these concepts across different concepts. The tricky part about this disorder is often there isn’t a quick fix as their vocabulary expands and certain words become harder to pronounce. For example, the word “knowledgeable” is a hard word to say correctly and those with the disorder often say the ending as “able” though it is pronounced “ible.”

However, through hard work and dedication those with the disorder can learn to speak more clearly, as the treatment plans are pretty straightforward. Please keep this in mind though as hard as it may seem, children make great progress if they receive individual and/or group speech therapy. Individual therapy allows for extensive practice and group therapy allows you to practice together and support each other.

Overall, those with the disorder generally do achieve success both academically and socially. The best thing you can do is to be involved in school and social activities along with continuing speech therapy. Being someone with an articulation disorder I know how true this is. It is certainly not easy and I still get frustrated at times, however accepting it and treating it makes all the difference in the world.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Originally published: October 13, 2021
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