Speech Sound Disorders in Children


It is common for children to make some mistakes as they learn new sounds and words. Children are expected to follow a similar pattern of phoneme acquisition. The term phonological processes refer to the simplification of adult like speech that children use to communicate. Most of the processes that occur are considered typical until two years old and others until four years of age depending on the process. It is a normal part of a child’s development. A speech sound disorder is when the same mistake occurs past a certain age. Children should be able to produce sounds in English correctly by the age of eight. If these processes continue past a certain age (typically 7 or 8)it is considered atypical.

What can cause speech sound disorders?

  • Developmental disorders (e.g., autism)
  • Genetic syndromes (e.g., Down syndrome)
  • Structural anomalies (e.g., cleft palate/lip/velar cleft)
  • Neurological damage/disease (e.g., cerebral palsy; brain damage)
  • Hearing impairment/deafness
  • Linguistic deficits (e.g., development of abnormal sound patterns (learning))
  • Concomitant- co-occuring with a language impairment

Processes that exist:

Syllable structure processes: when the child modifies the syllable structure of the target sound

  1. Unstressed syllable deletion: “pajama” –> “jama”
  2. Final consonant deletion: “bed” –> “be”
  3. Doubling: “bubble” –> “bubu”
  4. Diminutization: “cup”–>“cuppy”
  5. Cluster reduction: “spoon” –> “poon”
  6. Epenthesis: insertion of an unstressed vowel “bad” –> “bad-uh”

Substitution processes: when the child substitutes classes of sounds

  1. Gliding: “red” –> “wed”
  2. Vocalization: “poodle” –>“poodoo”
  3. Stopping: “food” –>“pood”
  4. Depalatalization: “shark” –> “sark”
  5. Velar Fronting: “key” –> “tee”

Assimilation processes: when the child changes one sound that is very close to another sound in the same phonetic environment

  1. Labial assimilation: “boot” –>“boop” (“b” has an influence on the “p”)
  2. Velar assimilation: “goat”–> “goog”
  3. Nasal assimilation: “done” –> “none” (“n” influenced the “d”)
  4. Reduplication: “bottle” –> “baba”
  5. Voicing assimilation: “toe” –> “do”
  6. Methathesis: “film” –> “flim”

Combination/multiple processes: multiple processes are occurring in a single production

  1. “bubble” –> “bubu” (labial assimilation & vocalization)
  2. “crawl” –> “ca” (cluster reduction & final consonant deletion)

If your child presents with some of these processes, visit the link below to determine if the process is appropriate for your child’s age. There are several different treatment approaches that could be used to help acquire speech sounds. The most commonly used approaches are motor based and linguistic based. Motor based approaches focus on motor learning and repetition of individual sounds. Linguistic based approaches focus on teaching the child the phonological rules of the language. Both may be paired with perceptual training, which focuses on a child’s ability to differentiate between sounds. If your child is struggling with their acquisition of speech, please consider seeing a speech-language pathologist.

Kimberly Chirco MA CF-SLP, TSSLD


Bowen, C. (2011). Table 3: Elimination of Phonological Processes. Retrieved from http://www.speech-language-therapy.com/

Speech Sound Disorders: Articulation and Phonological … (n.d.). http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/SpeechSoundDisorders/


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