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Types of Speech Impairments in Children and Their Treatment

speech impairments in children

Speech impairments in children can manifest in various forms, impacting their ability to communicate effectively. These impairments often require specific interventions to promote clear and confident speech development. Some common types of speech impairments in children include:

  • Disfluency: This includes stuttering and repetition of sounds or words, affecting the flow of speech.
  • Articulation Errors: Children may struggle to produce specific speech sounds correctly, leading to difficulty pronouncing words accurately.
  • Ankyloglossia, Also known as “tongue-tie,” is a condition where the tissue beneath the tongue restricts its movement, potentially affecting speech.
  • Dysarthria: Children with dysarthria may have muscle weakness or coordination issues, resulting in slurred or unclear speech.
  • Apraxia: Apraxia of speech involves difficulty planning and coordinating the precise movements required for proper articulation.

Understanding these impairments and seeking appropriate treatment can greatly enhance a child’s communication skills and overall development. 

So, keep reading to learn more about speech impairment types!


Disfluency is a speech disorder characterized by disruptions in the normal flow of speech. It often manifests as stuttering, such as repeating sounds, syllables, or words. Disfluency can lead to communication difficulties, frustration, and reduced self-esteem in individuals, especially in children, who are more commonly affected. The exact cause of disfluency can vary and may be influenced by genetic, neurological, or environmental factors.

Symptoms and Characteristics of Disfluencies

speech impairments

There are a variety of disfluencies. These may include:

  • Repetitions: Frequent repetition of sounds, syllables, or words.
  • Prolongations: Holding onto sounds or syllables longer than usual.
  • Blocks: Momentary pauses or speech halts due to physical tension, making starting or continuing a word difficult.

Causes of Disfluencies

The causes of disfluencies in speech can be multifaceted and may vary among individuals. 

Some common factors include:

  • Genetics: A family history of disfluency suggests a genetic predisposition to the condition.
  • Neurological Factors: Disruptions in the brain’s speech processing areas or neural pathways can contribute to disfluencies.
  • Developmental Factors: Disfluencies often arise during language development as children learn to coordinate speech muscles and language skills.
  • Environmental Factors: Stress, anxiety, or high-pressure situations can trigger disfluencies.

Speech Sound Disorders

Speech sound disorders are common and characterized by difficulty producing specific speech sounds accurately. Various manifestations of these errors may include the substitution of one sound with another, the omission of sounds, or the distortion of their production. Speech sound disorders often result in unclear or difficult-to-understand speech, potentially impacting communication and social interactions. Factors like developmental delays, muscle weakness or coordination issues, hearing impairments, or environmental influences may cause these errors. 

Symptoms and Characteristics of Speech Sound Disorders


Speech sound disorders encompass a range of symptoms and characteristics that affect speech clarity. These symptoms can vary in severity and complexity, and speech therapy treatment is often necessary to address articulation errors and promote clear and accurate speech.

These include:

  • Substitution: Replacing one sound with another.
  • Omissions: Skipping certain sounds within words leads to incomplete or distorted speech.
  • Distortions: Altering the intended sound, causing it to sound different from the standard pronunciation.
  • Additions: Inserting extra sounds or syllables into words, creating speech patterns that diverge from the norm.

Causes of Articulation Errors

Articulation errors can have various underlying causes that affect the accurate production of speech sounds. 

The cause of difficulty with articulation may include:

  • Developmental Factors: In children, articulation errors may arise as part of the normal process of language development, with some sounds mastered later than others.
  • Muscle Weakness or Coordination Issues: Weak oral muscles or difficulties coordinating the movements required for speech sound production can contribute to articulation errors.
  • Hearing Impairments: Impaired or distorted auditory feedback due to hearing loss can lead to difficulty perceiving and reproducing speech sounds accurately.
  • Neurological Conditions: Conditions affecting the central nervous system, such as cerebral palsy or neurological disorders, can disrupt the control of speech muscles.


Ankyloglossia, commonly referred to as “tongue-tie,” is a congenital oral condition where the strip of skin (lingual frenulum) beneath the tongue is shorter or thicker than usual. This malformation restricts the tongue’s range of motion, potentially affecting various oral functions. Babies with ankyloglossia may have difficulties latching during breastfeeding, leading to discomfort for both the infant and mother. It is speculated that Ankyloglossia can cause speech difficulties as children grow, affecting pronunciation and articulation. 

Symptoms and Characteristics of Ankyloglossia

Ankyloglossia, or tongue-tie, presents with specific symptoms and characteristics:

  • Difficulty Breastfeeding: Infants with ankyloglossia may struggle to latch onto the breast effectively, causing feeding challenges and potential nipple pain for mothers.
  • Speech Difficulties: As children grow, ankyloglossia can lead to articulation problems, affecting the pronunciation of certain sounds.
  • Limited Tongue Movement: Individuals with ankyloglossia often exhibit restricted tongue mobility, which can hinder tasks like sticking out the tongue or touching the roof of the mouth.

Causes of Ankyloglossia

Ankyloglossia, or tongue-tie, occurs due to a congenital condition where the lingual frenulum, the strip of tissue beneath the tongue, is unusually short or tight.

The precise causes are not always clear, but several factors can contribute:

  • Genetics: Ankyloglossia often runs in families, suggesting a genetic component.
  • Fetal Development: Abnormal development of the frenulum during gestation can lead to this condition.
  • Environmental Factors: Some theories propose that certain environmental factors or medications during pregnancy might play a role.


Dysarthria is a speech disorder characterized by impaired control and coordination of the muscles responsible for speech production, including the lips, tongue, vocal cords, and diaphragm. It often results from neurological conditions or injury to the nervous system, such as brain trauma, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or cerebral palsy. Individuals with dysarthria may exhibit symptoms like slurred speech, imprecise articulation, a weak or strained voice, and difficulty controlling the pitch and volume of their speech.

Symptoms and Characteristics of Dysarthria

Dysarthria presents a range of symptoms and characteristics that affect speech production and intelligibility:

  • Articulation Difficulties: Individuals with dysarthria often struggle with precise articulation, resulting in slurred or unclear speech.
  • Weak or Breathless Voice: A weak or breathy voice, accompanied by reduced volume and pitch control, is a common symptom.
  • Reduced Facial Muscle Control: Difficulty controlling facial muscles, leading to limited facial expressions and difficulty forming words.
  • Imprecise Consonant and Vowel Production: Dysarthria may cause distortions, omissions, or substitutions of speech sounds.

Causes of Dysarthria

The primary cause of Dysarthria is damage or dysfunction in the nervous system, affecting the muscles responsible for speech production. 

Common causes include:

  • Neurological Conditions: Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can lead to dysarthria due to nerve damage.
  • Stroke: Brain damage from a stroke can disrupt neural pathways that control speech muscles.
  • Brain Injuries: Traumatic brain injuries, tumors, or infections can impact the brain regions responsible for speech.
  • Cerebral Palsy: This congenital condition affects muscle control and coordination, sometimes leading to dysarthria.


A neurological condition known as verbal apraxia, sometimes known as apraxia of speech, affects the brain’s ability to plan and coordinate the precise movements required for talking. Unlike muscle weakness or paralysis, individuals with apraxia have difficulty executing the correct sequences of muscle movements for speech sounds and words. This results in speech that may be slow, laborious, and filled with sound errors. Apraxia can result from brain injuries, strokes, neurodegenerative conditions, or it may be of unknown origin. It may occur at any age- to children and adults.

Symptoms and Characteristics of Apraxia

Apraxia of speech is characterized by various symptoms and characteristics that impact speech production:

  • Inconsistent Errors: Individuals with apraxia often make inconsistent sound errors, with speech difficulties varying from one utterance to another.
  • Difficulty Planning Speech: They struggle to plan and organize the correct sequence of speech sounds and movements.
  • Articulatory Errors: Speech may be imprecise, with distorted or substituted sounds, making it challenging to articulate words accurately.
  • Slow and Effortful Speech: Apraxia can result in slow and laborious speech as individuals consciously coordinate their articulators.

Causes of Apraxia

The exact causes of apraxia of speech are not always clear-cut, but they generally involve disruptions in the brain’s communication pathways responsible for speech production. 

Potential causes include:

  • Neurological Damage: Brain injuries, strokes, or tumors can damage brain regions responsible for speech planning and execution.
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases: Conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or primary progressive aphasia can lead to apraxia of speech as they affect the brain’s functioning.
  • Developmental Factors: Sometimes, apraxia may have developmental origins, where the brain’s speech centers do not develop properly.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Genetic factors may increase the risk of apraxia.

Treating Speech Disorders with a Speech Language Pathologist

speech sound disorders

Speech disorders like disfluency, articulation errors, ankyloglossia, dysarthria, and apraxia can significantly impact communication and overall quality of life. Seeking assistance from a skilled speech-language pathologist is essential for diagnosis and tailored treatment plans. 

SLPs employ various techniques and therapies to address these disorders, enhancing speech clarity and confidence. 

For those needing professional guidance, contacting a reputable speech-language pathology service like BVPS can be a vital step toward improving speech and fostering effective communication skills!

Sources & References


Are you someone who identifies as neurodivergent? Dr. Burns and her team take a neuroaffirmative approach in their work to meet neurodivergent individuals where they are in a safe and validating environment.