Speech sound disorders occur when people have trouble producing sounds or sound patterns. Children are expected to produce speech sounds correctly when they reach a certain age. Making mistakes when saying new words is a normal process as children learn language, but continuing to produce speech sounds incorrectly after reaching specific age levels is characteristic of a speech sound disorder. Speech sound errors can occur as a result of hearing loss, chronic ear infections, developmental disorders, genetic syndromes, or neurological disorders. Adults can also have speech sound disorders as a result of stroke, head injury, or an untreated speech sound disorder from childhood.
Speech-language pathologists can evaluate children or adults who have concerns of speech sound disorders with formal tests of articulation and oral motor examinations to determine if there is a problem with the muscles for speech. Treatment for speech sound disorders includes modeling correct sound production, teaching the rules of speech, practicing sound production, and learning to recognize correct and incorrect speech sounds.