Key points

  • The majority of children with speech sound disorders have no identifiable cause for their problems.
  • Speech sound disorders can be associated with other conditions such as cleft palate, cerebral palsy and global developmental delay
  • Some children with speech sound disorders also have problems with their language development (i.e. how they use words in sentences). Other children will only have problems with their speech

What are speech sound disorders?

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Speech sound disorders is a term used to cover difficulties that some children have with their articulation, phonological and/or prosodic development. A variety of other terms are also used to describe Speech sound disorders including speech delay and speech impairment and in some cases, dyspraxia.

Children show patterns of errors in their speech. These might be patterns which are observed in typically developing younger children or non-developmental patterns. The terms ‘delay’ and ‘disorder’ may be used to describe these different patterns, but these terms are also used interchangeably.

Children typically vary in their speech development. Younger children produce speech which is different to adult speech, but which may be within the normal range, depending on their age and which sounds they are having problems with.

There are variations in how adults produce speech as well and the ‘errors’ which some children make in their speech might be more accurately described as a speech difference, rather than a speech difficulty, depending on the impact on intelligibility and acceptability of the child’s speech to others.

Role of speech and language therapy in Speech sound disorders

Speech and language therapy aims to identify whether the child has speech which is not within the typical range for the child’s age, diagnose the type of speech sound disorder, decide with the parent whether the child would benefit from intervention, and provide appropriate intervention.

There is more information about this type of speech difficulty in the motor disorder topic area.


  • Giving Voice – Children Centres, Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust

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