Speech Sound Disorders: Phonological Processes


Typical Speech Development vs Phonological Processes


All children use simplified speech as they are developing. Speech requires the speaker to have control of their lips, teeth, and tongue to make specific sounds. At different stages of development, it is common to have errors because we have not yet development the control of these parts of our bodies.


Many of us used familiar patterns of speech, such as "wabbit for rabbit" before we had acquired all of the different speech sounds needed for adult speech. These patterns of speech are called Phonological Processes.


Phonological Disorders occur when these patterns persist and affect more than one sound. Phonological Disorders are considered functional speech sounds disorders by the American Speech Language Hearing Association. This means there is no known cause.


What Does The Research Say?


Research suggests that children who are diagnosed with speech sounds disorders in kindergarten are at a greater risk of lower literacy skills. Similar outcomes are seen if children are diagnosed in preschool. Early intervention is key!



Types of Phonological Processes


Below is a list of processes. You may see unfamiliar words like "velars" or "affricates". These indicate a group of sounds for speech language pathologists.

  • Velar Assimilation: when a non-velar sound changes to a velar sound due to the presence of a neighboring velar sound. Typically eliminated by 3 years old.

  • Example: kick for tick

  • Nasal Assimilation: non-nasal sound changes to a nasal sound due to the presence of a neighboring nasal sound. Typically eliminated by 3 years old.

  • Example: money for bunny

  • Coalescence: When two phonemes are substituted with a different phonemes that has similar features. Atypical pattern, therapy always recommended.

  • Example: foon for spoon

  • Fronting: A sound made in the back of the mouth is replaced with a sound made in the front of the mouth. Typically eliminated by 3.5 years old.

  • Example: tee for key

  • Backing: A sound made in the front of the mouth is replaced with a sound made in the back of the mouth. Atypical pattern, therapy always recommended.

  • Example: key for tee

  • Stopping: Fricatives and/or Affricates, like /f/ and /s/, are replaced with a stop consonant like /p/ or /d/. Typically eliminated: /f/, /s/ by 3; /v/, /z/ by 3.5 sh, ch, j by 4.5 th gone by 5.

  • Example: pish for fish

  • Gliding: liquids /l/ and /r/ are replaced with a glide /w/ or /y/. Typically eliminated /l/ by 6 and /r/ by 7.

  • Example: wabbit for rabbit

  • Deaffrication: Affricates like /ch/ are replaced with a fricative like /sh/. Typically eliminated by 3 years old.

  • Example: ship for chip

  • Cluster Reduction: When a consonant cluster is simplified into a single consonant. Typically eliminated by 4 years old without /s/ and by 5 years old with /s/ clusters.

  • Example: tick for stick

  • Weak Syllable Deletion: when the unstressed or weak syllable in a word is delated. Typically eliminated by 4 years of age.

  • Example: nana for banana

  • Final Consonant Deletion: deletion of the final consonant in a word. Typically eliminated by 3 years of age.

  • Example: buy for bike

  • Initial Consonant Deletion: deletion of the initial consonant in a word. Atypical patter, therapy always recommended.

  • Example: ummy for tummy


This list is not exhausted but includes some of the most common processes. You may see "atypical" this indicates a pattern that is never developmentally appropriate and almost always requires therapeutic intervention. (developmentally appropriate: a child will use a simpler sound in place of a more challenging one because their speech system is not yet able to produce it consistently)



When to Seek Help

  • Anytime your child is getting frustrated at not being understood

  • If your child is continuing to simplify sounds past the age typical age of elimination

  • If your child is using any of the atypical patterns listed above: coalescence, backing, initial consonant deletion.


Interested in downloading this list to have handy? Click the download button below for a FREE resource!



Phonological Processes
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