I was working with an older lad last week who couldn’t say his “CH” or “J” sound. These were the only sounds he couldn’t say now which was huge progress for him. If he was under 5 or 6 years old, I might have expected these difficulties as it’s common for children to use “t” or “d” in place of these trickier sounds. That would be called a normal phonological process by a speech and language therapist (SLT) and we would want to give him time to get there by himself.
But he was older than that. Also, he wasn’t using an expected substitution, such as “t” or “d.”
When assessing his sounds using the S.W.I.P.E. I wanted to work out whether his difficulty was due to a phonological delay (e.g. chin is said as “tin,” jelly said as “delly”) or a phonological disorder. A disordered profile means that the sound is substituted using an unexpected sound – one that’s not typical normal phonological development. So, if he said “sin” or “yin” for chin, then I would describe this as more of a disorder than a delay.
Then I would want to know if he was consistent in his sounds (i.e. always used “s” for “ch”) or inconsistent (i.e. sometimes using “s” other times using “y.”) So, you can see, there’s a lot we are looking out for when we assess, as it impacts on how and if we go ahead with therapy.
But this lad wasn’t using any typical or atypical substitutions. He just had difficulty with the actual production of these two sounds: CH and J. So, it turns out he had an articulation difficulty - he was consistent in that he always uses the same sound, it’s just the sound he uses wasn’t clear. Which meant it was sometimes difficult to understand him.
Frustrating when your name begins with one of those sounds and everyone asks you to repeat yourself every time you say your name.
This meant that this particular lad ticked both boxes for therapy. Firstly, he had an articulation difficulty that was impacting on his intelligibility. Second, he was motivated to improve his speech.
So, in summary, an articulation disorder is a difficulty at a motor/production level. Children have trouble making the individual speech sounds. Whereas a phonological difficulty is at a phonemic level or "linguistic level" and involves patterns of sound errors.
Literacy difficulties can occur as a result of both kinds of speech sound difficulties but are more common in phonological disorders. Therefore, I would always advise to get your child assessed if you are concerned. Check out my speech assessment app on www.wiseoldowlslt.com for parents if you would like to be reassured that your child’s speech is where it should be for their age. But remember, nothing compares with having a full assessment by a speech and language therapist.