Speech Sound Disorder
Speech disorders can come in the way a person creates sound to form words. Some voice disorders are also considered speech disorders. One of the commonly found speech disorders is stammering. Apraxia and dysarthria are the other speech disorders that come after stammering.
Apraxia is a motor disorder caused by impairment of the parts of the brain related to speaking, whereas dysarthria is a motor speech disorder in which the muscles of the face, mouth or respiratory system may get weak or have difficulty moving.
Some people with speech disorders are mindful of what they would like to say, but unable to vocalize their thoughts. This inability may snowball into a self-esteem issue and eventually end up slipping into depression as an offshoot.
Both adults and children can get affected by speech disorders. Early treatment is the best way to reverse the condition.
Cause of speech disorders
Speech disorders can impair the vocal cords, muscles, nerves, and other structures within the throat. Causes may include:
- vocal cord damage
- brain damage
- muscle weakness
- respiratory weakness
- polyps or nodules on the vocal cords
- vocal cord paralysis
The presence of certain medical and developmental conditions can increase the risk of a person being affected by speech disorders. Common conditions that can cause speech disorders are:
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- oral cancer
- laryngeal cancer
- Huntington’s disease
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease
We should not forget that speech disorder can be hereditary and they can develop with age as well.
Symptoms of speech disorder
Depending on what caused one to develop speech disorder, several symptoms may be present. Common symptoms experienced by people with speech disorders are:
- repeating sounds, which is most often seen in people who stutter
- adding extra sounds and words
- elongating words
- making jerky movements while talking, usually involving the head
- blinking several times while talking
- visible frustration when trying to communicate
- taking frequent pauses when talking
- distorting sounds when talking
- hoarseness, or speaking with a raspy or gravelly sounding voice
Diagnosis of speech disorders
The Denver articulation screening examination (DASE) is a widely accepted testing system to diagnose disorders related to speech and articulation of words. The test primarily evaluates clarity in pronunciation between children aged two and seven. This test that lasts for about five minutes uses various exercises to evaluate the child’s speech.
Early Language Milestone Scale 2 is another test for assessing speech disorders. This test, developed by a neurodevelopmental pediatrician James Coplan, focuses on child’s language development. Language and speech disorders can be easily identified through this test.
Peabody picture vocabulary test. As the name signifies, this test evaluates a person’s vocabulary and ability to speak. The person who is suspected to have speech disorder will listen to various words and choose pictures that describe the word. People with intellectual disabilities and those who are blind are excused from this assessment. Since it was first introduced in 1959, it has undergone revision a lot of times.
Treatment for speech disorders
If the speech disorder is mild, there is no need of any treatment as such. Some speech disorders may simply vanish over time. Others can improve with speech therapy.
Treatment for the condition depends on what kind of speech disorder one may have. In speech therapy, you will be guided through exercises that will strengthen the muscles in the face and throat. You will learn how to control your breathing while speaking. Muscle-strengthening exercises and controlled breathing help to enhance the clarity of the sound that you make. You will also learn techniques to make your speech smoother and more fluent.
People with speech disorders may experience nervousness, embarrassment or depression. Talk therapy is quite beneficial in these situations. The therapist will teach the affected person how to cope with the condition and how to improve the outlook of the condition. Anti-depression medications may be prescribed if the level of depression is severe.
Why is speech therapy importation?
If the speech disorder remains untreated, it may cause the person to experience higher level of anxiety even in ordinary situations. Over time anxiety may progress into anxiety disorders or phobia of public speaking, that is why early treatment is necessary to prevent the occurrence of anxiety disorders or phobias. Treatment modality includes anxiety medications and talk therapy.
Long-term outlook for people with speech disorders improves who go for early treatment. An early intervention can help prevent the condition worsening. If the speech disorder is permanent, the outlook depends on the severity of the condition.
If you are doubtful of your child having speech problems, it is advisable to seek the professional opinion of a speech-language pathologist to arrest the progression and a quick reversal of the condition.