Phonology is the study of how speech sounds are organized in a language. As children are learning to talk, they may apply different patterns to simplify speech. These patterns that children apply are referred to as phonological processes; many are considered normal and we expect youngsters to use at least some of them as they develop their speech.
Problems arise when too many of these simplification patterns are present and/or when they hold on past the expected age range. In some cases, a child may not be producing an entire class of sounds in their speech which can result in speech that is very difficult for others to understand.
A few examples of phonological processes include:
· Consonant sequence reduction (e.g. “poon” for “spoon”; “boo” for “blue”)
· Final consonant deletion (e.g. “ha” for “hat”)
· Fronting (a back sound made in the front of the mouth, e.g. “tow” for “cow”)
· Syllable reduction (e.g. “boon” for “balloon”; “tevin” for “television”)
· Stopping (e.g. “taw” for “saw”; “pibe” for “five”)
Phonological disorders are more complex than articulation difficulties; articulation refers to the actual physical ability to produce the different speech sounds. The phonological disorder is a simplification of the sound system whereas the articulation disorder refers to problems making the sounds.
The speech-language pathologist conducts a detailed analysis of your child’s speech capabilities and develops a treatment approach specific to his/her profile. Remediation of phonological processes requires a different approach – addressing classes or categories of sounds, rather than correcting individual articulation errors.