SPEECH DISORDERS

Speech, language and communication disorders affect a significant portion of the global population. From stammering to lisps, dyspraxia to dysarthia, a variety of speech disorders exist which make verbal communication difficult. But with proper diagnoses and treatments many speech challenges may be overcome or at least alleviated to the point that efficient communication becomes possible.

Spasmodic dysphonia:
Spasmodic dysphonia is a voice disorder that affects verbal communication, and as such is generally considered in the larger umbrella term of a speech disorder. Spasmodic dysphonia tends to develop in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50 and is more frequently diagnosed in women than men. However, the cause of spasmodic dysphonia remains unknown. It is believed that spasmodic dysphonia is connected to the nervous system and may accompany other involuntary muscle movements such as eye blinking, movement of the face, lip or tongue muscles, or muscle twitches or quivers. There may be some hereditary basis to spasmodic dysphonia, meaning that it could be genetic and therefore affect members of the same blood families.

Aphasia:
Aphasia is a condition that makes communication difficult because an individual has trouble with language while they are talking, listening, writing and/or sometimes using numbers. Aphasia is sometimes also called dysphasia.
Aphasia occurs when the communication areas of the brain are damaged and so affects each individual differently. There are some common causes of this condition. Stroke, head injury, tumours, brain haemorrhage and other neurological conditions have all been known to cause aphasia.

Apraxia of Speech:
Apraxia of speech leaves individuals unable to consistently and correctly say what they mean. There are two main types of apraxia of speech. Developmental apraxia of speech occurs mainly in children and is often present from birth, but acquired apraxia of speech is mostly present in adults and is often the result of injury to the part of the brain that controls language use. The severity of this type of apraxia will depend upon the type, extent and location of the injury to the brain as well as the age of the individual involved. The prognosis for an acquired apraxia of speech will depend upon the same variables.
One of the most common symptoms of apraxia of speech is an inability to string together sounds and syllables to make coherent words. This inability may not be consistent, however, so individuals may be able to say a word correctly, then mispronounce it within a short time of each other. Or an individual may be able to say a word correctly but the next day they may mispronounce it consistently.
Individuals suffering from apraxia of speech may also have varying rhythms and stresses to their speech. This may make the cadence of their speech seem off, or their accents seem strange. Children with developmental apraxia of speech may also have trouble using language, including while reading, writing, spelling and/or listening in addition to speaking. Some children, however, will be able to understand language much more efficiently than they can actually use it.

Articulation Disorders:
Articulation disorders are those that are related to an individual’s ability to say particular sounds and/or string particular sounds together. These difficulties will persist across words as distinct from a simple mispronunciation. At their most basic level articulation disorders are the results of an individual being physiologically unable to produce particular sounds through the use of their lips, tongue, teeth, palate and even respiratory system, facial nerves and muscles.
In children with no associated condition, articulation disorders may be treatable with speech therapy. In individuals who have trouble articulating due to another condition, the prognosis of that condition will likely affect their progress in correcting their disordered articulation.

Children’s Speech Sound Disorders:
Children with speech sound disorders either can not produce speech sounds, can not correctly produce specific speech sounds or can not use speech sounds correctly when they do produce them. These speech sounds may be related to one letter or may be related to entire syllables. Generally these disorders are more specifically classified as either articulation disorders or phonemic disorders, though there may be some mixed speech sound disorders as well. In a broader context, however, there are four main types of speech sound disorders. The causes of speech sound disorders vary, and speech therapy is very often the first option for treating speech sound disorders.
Children who experience speech sound disorders usually fall into one of four broad categories. Omissions occur when children leave out sounds or syllables either because they can not produce them, can not produce them correctly or do not use them correctly throughout their spoken language. Additions, sometimes also called commissions, occur when a child adds an extra sound or syllable to a word. Distortions occur when a child pronounces a word correctly, but one of the sounds involved is not correct. Finally, substitutions occur when a child consistently substitutes one sound for another. This generally holds true across language, so that children produce the wrong sounds consistently.

Cluttering:
Cluttering occurs when an individual’s speech accelerates to a more rapid pace than normal, when the individual (often unconsciously) repeats syllables or phrases, and/or when an individual goes back to repeat things multiple times in an effort to make his or her speech more clear. When these occur, the individual’s speech literally becomes cluttered.

Expressive Language Disorder:
Expressive language disorder is characterized by inefficient or frustrated spoken communication. This means that the individual suffering from it will be hesitant when speaking. (S)he will often grope for the right vocabulary, proper grammar, correct verb tenses and phrases. (S)he may have trouble completing full sentences and thoughts. However, because these problems only occur with spoken speech the individual generally is able to understand the same language when it is spoken to him or her. For some individuals, substituting vague words (“that thing,” “that stuff,” etc.) is a sign that they are unable to think of more specific vocabulary. Children in particular may become frustrated with this inability to use spoken language and may turn to acting out or inappropriate behavior when they can not express themselves as they would like.

Receptive Language Disorders:
Symptoms of Receptive Language Disorders will vary from individual to individual, though some common symptoms may be observed. Often people with such a disorder will not appear to hear others when they are spoken to, show little attention when books are read aloud, struggle to understand complicated sentences, struggle to understand spoken instructions and show general language skills that are inappropriate with their ages. Sometimes individuals with Receptive Language Disorders will also repeat or parrot words or phrases back to the individual who has spoken them. This is known as echolia and is related to this type of disorder.

Speech Delay:
There is no set age at which all children should start talking but most children will be talking – that is, using understandable words to convey meanings – by about 18 months of age. Prior to this time most children make noises and test out sounds as they learn to produce language. This babbling often starts at around four months of age.
By their second birthdays, some children have as many as 200 words in their vocabulary. However, some children may not speak much at all until closer to their third birthday.

Stammering:
There are three main types of stammers that exist and which keep individuals from speaking most efficiently. One type of stammering occurs when specific sounds are repeated, such as the “s”. This often makes a word such as “sweet” be pronounced as “s-s-s-sweet”.
Another type of stammering occurs when a specific sound is prolonged before the rest of the word is pronounced, such as “sssssssweet”. The third type of stammering occurs when some speech is blocked so that there is a short period of silence in the middle of a word, such as “sa��a��weet”.