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What is a speech disorder?
Speech is the process of producing specific sounds that convey meaning to the listener. Therefore, a speech disorder is a condition that affects a person’s ability to produce sounds that create words. In other words, a speech disorder is a condition in which a person has problems creating or forming the speech sounds needed in order to communicate with others.
Speech disorders are different from language disorders. Speech disorders prevent people from forming correct speech sounds whereas language disorders distort a person’s ability to learn words or understand what others say to them. However, both of these disorders affect the way a person expresses himself or herself to others.
Types of speech disorders.
There are several types of speech disorders that affect people of all ages. These types include stuttering, apraxia, and dysarthria.
Stuttering is a speech disorder that distorts the flow of speech. People who stutter experience disruptions such as repetitions, blocks, and prolongations. Certain conditions like stress, excitement, or frustration can cause stuttering to be severe.
There are two main types of stuttering:
- Developmental stuttering affects young children who are still learning speech and language skills.
- Neurogenic stuttering occurs when damage to the brain prevents proper coordination between the different regions of the brain that play a role in speech.
Physical symptoms of stuttering.
There are several physical symptoms of stuttering. These can include:
- Tension in face and shoulders.
- Rapid blinking.
- Lip tremors.
- Clenched fists and sudden head movements.
Apraxia refers to brain damage that impairs a person’s motor skills, and it can affect any part of the body. However, verbal apraxia refers to impairment of motor skills that affects a person’s ability to form sounds of speech.
Dysarthria occurs when damage to the brain causes muscle weakness in a person’s face, lips, tongue, throat or chest. Muscle weakness in these parts of the body can make speaking very difficult.
Symptoms of people with dysarthria.
- Slurred speech.
- Speaking too slowly or too quickly.
- Soft or quiet speech.
- Difficulty moving the mouth or tongue.
What are the symptoms of speech disorders?
The symptoms of speech disorders vary with the type and severity. However, people with one or many speech disorders may experience these symptoms:
- Repeating or prolonging sounds.
- Distorting sounds.
- Adding sounds or syllables.
- Rearranging syllables.
- Having difficulty pronouncing words correctly.
- Struggling to say correct sounds.
- Speaking with hoarse sound.
- Speaking very softly.
Causes of speech disorders.
Some of the causes of speech disorders include:
- Brain damage due to head injury.
- Muscle weakness.
- Damaged vocal cords.
- Degenerative diseases. For example, Parkinson’s disease.
- Cancer that affects the mouth.
- Down syndrome.
- Hearing loss.
What are some of the risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing a speech disorder?
- Being male.
- Being born prematurely.
- Having low weight at birth.
- Having a family history of speech disorders.
- Experiencing complications that affect ears, nose, or throat.
Diagnosis and treatment of speech disorders.
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a healthcare professional who specializes in speech and language disorders.
Methods used by an SLP to evaluate a person’s symptoms include:
- Reviewing personal medical and family history.
- Examining motor skills of a person’s jaws, lips, and tongue.
- May also inspect mouth and throat.
- Denver articulation screening examination.
- Prosody-voice screening profile.
- Dynamic evaluation of motor speech skills (DEMSS) manual.
The type of treatment depends on the severity of the speech disorder and its underlying cause.
Treatment options include:
- Speech therapy exercises that focus on building familiarity with certain words and sounds.
- Physical exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles that produce speech sounds.
- Ear devise.
- Contrast therapy.
- Contextual utilization.
- Target selection.