Speech & Language Terminology
Q: What is a communication disorder?
A: A communication disorder is an impairment in the ability to receive, send, process, and comprehend concepts or verbal, nonverbal and graphic symbol systems. A communication disorder may be evident in the processes of hearing, language, and/or speech. A communication disorder may range in severity from mild to profound. It may be developmental or acquired. Individuals may demonstrate one or any combination of communication disorders. A communication disorder may result in a primary disability or it may be secondary to other disabilities.
Q: What is speech?
A: Speech is the verbal means of communicating. Speech consists of the following:
Articulation: How speech sounds are made (e.g., children must learn how to produce the "r" sound in order to say "rabbit" instead of "wabbit").
Voice: Use of the vocal folds and breathing to produce sound (e.g., the voice can be abused from overuse or misuse and can lead to hoarseness or loss of voice).
Fluency: The rhythm of speech (e.g., hesitations or stuttering can affect fluency).
Q: What are speech sound disorders?
A: Most children make some mistakes as they learn to say new words. A speech sound disorder occurs when mistakes continue past a certain age. Every sound has a different range of ages when the child should make the sound correctly. Speech sound disorders include problems with articulation (making sounds) and phonological processes (sound patterns).
Q: What are some signs of an articulation disorder?
A: An articulation disorder involves problems making sounds. Sounds can be substituted, left off, added or changed. These errors may make it hard for people to understand you.
Young children often make speech errors. For instance, many young children sound like they are making a "w" sound for an "r" sound (e.g., "wabbit" for "rabbit") or may leave sounds out of words, such as "nana" for "banana." The child may have an articulation disorder if these errors continue past the expected age.
Not all sound substitutions and omissions are speech errors. Instead, they may be related to a feature of a dialect or accent. For example, speakers of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) may use a "d" sound for a "th" sound (e.g., "dis" for "this"). This is not a speech sound disorder, but rather one of the phonological features of AAVE.
Q: What are some signs of a phonological disorder?
A: A phonological process disorder involves patterns of sound errors. For example, substituting all sounds made in the back of the mouth like "k" and "g" for those in the front of the mouth like "t" and "d" (e.g., saying "tup" for "cup" or "das" for "gas").
Another rule of speech is that some words start with two consonants, such as broken or spoon. When children don't follow this rule and say only one of the sounds ("boken" for broken or "poon" for spoon), it is more difficult for the listener to understand the child. While it is common for young children learning speech to leave one of the sounds out of the word, it is not expected as a child gets older. If a child continues to demonstrate such cluster reduction, he or she may have a phonological process disorder.
Q: What is language?
A: Language is made up of socially shared rules that include the following:
-What words mean (e.g., "star" can refer to a bright object in the night sky or a celebrity)
-How to make new words (e.g., friend, friendly, unfriendly)
-How to put words together (e.g., "Peg walked to the new store" rather than "Peg walk store new")
-What word combinations are best in what situations ("Would you mind moving your foot?" could quickly change to "Get off my foot, please!" if the first request did not produce results)
Q: What is a language disorder?
A: A language disorder is impaired comprehension and/or use of spoken, written, and/or other symbolic systems. The disorder may involve (1) the form of language (phonology, morphology, syntax), (2) the content of language (semantics), and/or (3) the function of language in communication (pragmatics) in any combination.
Phonology is the sound system of a language and the rules that govern the sound combinations.
Morphology is the system that governs the structure of words and the construction of word forms.
Syntax is the system governing the order and combination of words and sentences.
Semantics is the system that governs the meanings of words and sentences.
Pragmatics is the system that combines the above language components in functional and socially appropriate communication.
Q: What is a central auditory processing disorder?
A: Central auditory processing disorders are deficits in the information processing of audible signals not attributed to impaired peripheral hearing sensitivity or intellectual impairment. This information processing involves perceptual, cognitive, and linguistic functions that, with appropriate interaction, result in effective receptive communication of auditorily presented stimuli. Specifically, CAPD refers to limitations in the ongoing transmission, analysis, organization, transformation, elaboration, storage, retrieval, and use of information contained in audible signals. CAPD may involve the listener's active and passive (e.g., conscious and unconscious, mediated and unmediated, controlled and automatic) ability to do the following:
-attend, discriminate, and identify acoustic signals;
-transform and continuously transmit information through both the peripheral and central nervous systems;
-filter, sort, and combine information at appropriate perceptual and conceptual levels;
-store and retrieve information efficiently; restore, organize, and use retrieved information;
-segment and decode acoustic stimuli using phonological, semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic knowledge; and
-attach meaning to a stream of acoustic signals through use of linguistic and nonlinguistic contexts.
Q: Do speech and language disorders affect learning?
A: Speech and language skills are essential to academic success and learning. Language is the basis of communication. Reading, writing, gesturing, listening, and speaking are all forms of language. Learning takes place through the process of communication. The ability to communicate with peers and adults in the educational setting is essential for a student to succeed in school.
Q: How may a speech-language disorder affect school performance?
A: Children with communication disorders frequently do not perform at grade level. They may struggle with reading, have difficulty understanding and expressing language, misunderstand social cues, avoid attending school, show poor judgment, and have difficulty with tests.
Difficulty in learning to listen, speak, read, or write can result from problems in language development. Problems can occur in the production, comprehension, and awareness of language sounds, syllables, words, sentences, and conversation. Individuals with reading and writing problems also may have trouble using language to communicate, think, and learn.