It is not uncommon for children, and adults, to struggle with speech impediments. Speech impediments cause issues like a lisp or stuttering. There are many different causes of speech impediments. Speech impediments can be caused by physical issues within the mouth, or they can be caused by neurological disorders.
How is Speech Produced?
In order to understand a speech impediment, we first need to know how the speech process typically works. The brain plays a large role in speech. In the brain, we decide what we want to say, and the brain helps us carry out those commands to produce those sounds.
Air passes through the larynx to create vibrations which produce sound. The tongue, palate, teeth, lips, and other body parts work together to transform those sounds into distinct sounds or words.
What Types of Speech Impediments are There?
A speech impediment is anything that gives a person difficulty when they regularly speak. Speech impediments can be categorized into 3 different types: articulation disorders, fluency disorders, or voice disorders.
- Articulation disorders include speech problems like omissions, substitutions, and distortions.
- Fluency disorders are issues like stuttering or cluttering.
- Voice disorders deal with the actual quality of someone’s voice; a voice disorder could be that a person struggles to create a variety of pitches with their voice.
Apraxia happens when the neural pathway between the brain and speech muscles has a communication issue. The person knows what they want to say, they are capable of writing out what they want to say, and their speech muscles work properly.
But, when they try to speak, the miscommunication between the brain and speech muscles limits their ability to do so. Children can be born with apraxia. It is also possible to get apraxia after having a stroke.
Dysarthria is a speech impediment that affects articulation. People with dysarthria may have slurred speech, find it difficult to articulate, or struggle with tongue, jaw, or lip movements.
Dysarthria is a result of nerve or muscle damage to the vocal chords, diaphragm, tongue, or lips. Because this speech impediment is the result of weakened or damaged muscles or nerves, treatment for dysarthria focuses on strengthening the nerves or muscles that are weak.
People who struggle with cluttering speak very rapidly and in jerky phrasing. A person might speak with a lot of filler words like “um,” “so,” “like,” etc. It’s common for a person who struggles with cluttering to also struggle with stuttering.
Speech therapists can use audio recordings to help a person who struggles with cluttering be able to monitor and notice their language issues. Speech therapists might also help a patient struggling with cluttering to practice phrasing sentences correctly.
A lisp is a more common speech impediment children and adults may experience. A lisp can make someone’s “s” sounds sound like “th” sounds, but there are several different types of lisps with other sound production issues.
A lisp could be caused by incorrect tongue placement or crowded teeth. Many young children with a lisp will naturally correct themselves as they learn how to speak. Children, or adults, who don’t naturally outgrow a lisp can see a speech therapist for help in correcting their speech impediment.
Speech impediments can be a self-confidence buster for children and adults. Often times, they already are self-conscious about their problem and when other’s make fun of them for it, it can make the person feel even worse for something that they can’t control.
Getting speech therapy is a step in the right direction as a therapist can help you work to improve your speech skills. Practice goes a long way but it often takes years of speech therapy to overcome some of the hurdles that come with speech impediments.