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Phonological delay

Phonological delay

A phonological delay is a type of speech sound disorder. When a child has a phonological delay they are following a typical pattern of speech development but are demonstrating developmental phonological errors that typically should have disappeared 6 or more months earlier. A phonological delay can impact a child’s production of certain sounds making their speech unclear.

Our speech and language therapists can assess the speech skills of your child to identify if they are using any phonological errors that should have typically been eliminated. Our speech and language therapists will use the information from the assessment to create a therapy programme for a child, that works on eliminating the delayed phonological errors and improves the use of correct speech sounds.

Speech and language therapy can make your child’s speech more understandable to others by improving their use of correct sounds in a word. This can improve both speech skills and social communication skills as your child’s speech will be more understandable to others making it easier for them to communicate their opinions without being misunderstood.

What is a phonological delay?

When a child learns to speak they do not learn individual speech sounds but words as a whole. As a child’s speech develops they learn to store these words in a more efficient way, by breaking them down into the components they contain and storing them according to these, for example, all sounds starting with ‘p’. As a child’s speech sounds are still developing, a child cannot produce all the sounds in a word and therefore often simplify these sounds or the sequence of sounds in a word. This process of sound simplification is called ‘phonological processes / errors’.

A phonological error is a cognitive action that occurs when a child is finding a sound or a sequence of sounds difficult to produce. This is done by substituting, omitting or simplifying the sounds or sound sequence with similar sounds that are less difficult to produce. Children may produce cat as ‘tat’ or bottle as ‘bobo’. Phonological errors are a part of normal development of speech, however as a as child’s articulatory skills increase the phonological errors start to fade out.

Developmental phonological errors have milestones by which they should start to fade out and the age they should be eliminated by. If your child is still producing these errors 6 months or more after the age they should be eliminated by, your child may have a phonological delay.

Impact of a phonological delay

A child’s speech and other aspects of their life can be impacted by a phonological delay, for example:

  • Unclear speech.
  • Miscommunication as many words produced by the child sound the same.
  • Difficulties with literacy and reading skills.
  • Difficulties making and maintaining friends.
  • May need more time to produce a response.
  • Frustration.
  • Low self-esteem.

A child who has a phonological delay may produce sounds at the front of the mouth rather than further back where they should be made and produce all sounds as voiceless sounds, therefore words such as pig, tig and dig may all be produced as ‘big’. This can lead to the child often being misunderstood when trying to express their thoughts. This can impact their confidence as they may choose not to talk or approach others as they are aware they may not always be understood.

Our speech and language therapists can help children who have a phonological delay by providing a therapy programme that targets the child’s speech errors and works on increasing their use of different sounds. Our speech and language therapists aim to produce a therapy programme that can be worked on in clinic, at school and at home.

Speech and language therapy available for phonological delay

Our speech and language therapists can provide your child with an individualised therapy programme that targets your child’s specific speech difficulties. Our speech and language therapists aim to provide a therapy programme that includes our child’s goals and motivators as well as yours and the school's priorities.

Speech and language therapy available includes:

  • Advice, training, support and strategies for parents, carers, teachers and other professionals
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Speech and language therapy can make a child’s speech more clear for others to understand. Our speech and language therapists will work to eliminate the different processes your child is producing. Speech and language therapy can increase a child’s confidence and communication with others.

Next steps

If you think your child has a phonological delay or have been alerted to this by a teacher or another professional email office@sltforkids.co.uk or call 0330 088 2298 to speak to one of our qualified speech and language therapists.

Free telephone consultation

We offer a free telephone consultation in order to discuss any concerns regarding your childs speech and language development. If you would like to book in a free telephone consultation do not hesitate to contact us on office@sltforkids.co.uk or call 0330 088 2298. Alternatively, fill in the form below and a member of our team will be in touch.

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