Phonological processes are patterns that young children use to simplify adult speech. These errors are mistakes that typically developing children use while their speech and language skills are developing. For example a toddler may say “tootie” for cookie or “doddie” for doggy.
When is it considered a disorder?
Many speech patterns are considered appropriate until 3 years of age. Speech becomes easier for children to produce with increased experience and maturity. This means that a child will stop using patterns to simplify words as his/ her speech and motor skills mature. A developmental phonological disorder exists if a child continues to use these patterns beyond a certain age.
What are common phonological processes?
One of the most common phonological processes is a pattern known as fronting. This happens when a child says a sound in the front of their mouth that should be made in the back.
The error pattern can affect the sound in the beginning, middle, or end of a word.
In addition to replacing sounds, other processes/ patterns involve deleting or reducing a sound, as well as patterns where one sound or syllable influences other sounds or syllables. For more details on phonological processes and when they should be extinguished, check out this free chart from Mommy Speech Therapy.
How can you help?
If phonological processes are present in a child’s speech while learning new words, their speech can become VERY difficult to understand. Changing one sound in a word can also change the meaning. Often children do not hear the differences in the words and will say one word to mean two different ones. For example, a child that substitutes /t/ for /k/ will produce /tea/ and /key/ the same way even though the child means two different words. This can become frustrating for caregivers! If you suspect your child may have a phonological disorder, or if you are concerned that your child is not speaking clearly for his/ her age, contact a speech language pathologist for an assessment and treatment (if needed.)
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