Phonological Disorders: Definition & Types

Instructor: Gaines Arnold

Gaines has a Master of Science in Education.

This lesson is concerned with a problem that is all too common among young children and adults. In young children, being able to speak clearly is called a phonological disorder, while in adults (as well as children) it is a reading issue. Whether reading or speaking, this lesson examines how these disorders effect sufferers and how they can be recognized.

When a Small Issue Becomes a Bigger Problem

When he was four, friends of the Mullins found it difficult to understand Robby. He had issues with certain sounds. What had been cute when he was little, as it is with children in general, seemed to be something of a problem now. The first people to suggest that there might be an issue with Robby's speech were his preschool teachers. They spent from three to five hours a day with him and had observed his difficulty making many sounds others in his age group had no problem with. He started kindergarten at age six, and his teachers there also mentioned it. The Mullins had just written it off as overzealous teachers when he was four, but they decided to take him to a speech pathologist, at the urging of Robby's pediatrician, when he was six.

A Problem Forming Certain Sounds

Phonemes are the sounds and letter groupings that make up words. When a child (or adult) is unable, for some reason, to process these sounds, symbols, and/or groups of letters accurately, they are said to have a phonological disorder, or a speech sound disorder. Every child is unable to articulate sounds until they learn through imitation or other means, but when a child reaches four years of age, and is still unintelligible to people outside his family, or six, and they cannot make certain sounds, it's a good idea to have them tested for this disorder.

Reading as Well as Speaking

This disorder is not seen just when a child speaks; it can also be present when they are learning to read. In speech, these types of disorders have to do with articulation because the child cannot articulate certain sounds, or express them so that any other person can understand it. In reading, a phonological disorder or deficit is seen when an individual has issues with matching a sound to the corresponding letters, or groups of letters, on a page. Some research suggests that as much as 70% of reading problems occur when an individual has a phonological processing disorder. When this problem is paired with comprehension issues, the person is tested for dyslexia. This is a problem interpreting words or symbols, or mixing them up, but it does not have anything to do with intelligence.

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