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  • Claudia M and Dasha K

What Does That Mean??


Final consonant deletion, articulation, phonology, expressive language….ehmm I’m not sure I follow. Speech Pathologists (or Speechies as we often call ourselves) can sometimes throw around words that you don’t fully understand or may not have even heard before. We understand that there are certain terms that need explaining for those families who have not had much involvement with this area of health and development. That’s why we’ve come up with a handy go-to guide for when one of these unfamiliar words comes up!

But before we dive in, it’s important that we give a quick mention to the difference between Speech and Language. Speech is about how we actually make sounds and put them together to pronounce words. Language is about using words in phrases and sentences to make meaningful messages and understanding the messages communicated by others. We’ve split up the guide below into Speech and Language.

SPEECH: being able to communicate by using the voice and structures in the mouth to form sounds and put them together the right way to make words.

INTELLIGIBILITY: how well the child can be understood by others. Sometimes Speech Pathologists will talk about this in assessments and ongoing support by ranking it with a percent of speech that can be understood. E.g. ‘30% intelligible’ means they can be understood 30% of the time by an unfamiliar listener.

ARTICULATION: the pronunciation of sounds themselves. This is about using the structures in the mouth to form speech sounds correctly (eg. raising the back of the tongue to meet the soft palate for the /k/ sound). Difficulties in this area are seen when children can’t actually make a particular sound – rather than when they can but they are using the ‘old way’ because its easier.

PHONOLOGY: the study of speech sound processes involved in saying words. Children make words easier to say by using special ways (phonological processes) to say them while they are still developing e.g. ‘stawberry’ instead of ‘strawberry’ because the str- cluster is tricky (this is called ‘Cluster Reduction’). This process and other common ones are described below.

  • CLUSTER REDUCTION: another speech error process where a group of consonants are missed entirely (“eye” for “fly”), reduced (“lie” for “fly”) or replaced with another sound (“bye” for “fly”).

  • FINAL CONSONANT DELETION: this is when a child omits the final consonant in a word (“boo” for “book”).

  • GLIDING: using a /w/ for a /r/ and a /l/ for a /y/ e.g. ‘wabbit’ for ‘rabbit’

  • STOPPING: an error pattern when a long sound, such as /s/, is replaced with a short sound, such as /t/ (“tea” for “sea”).

  • WEAK SYLLABLE DELETION: another error pattern where the unstressed syllable in a word is missed out (“loon” for “balloon”).

The following are not a normal part of speech development and often need speech support to reduce:

  • INITIAL CONSONANT DELETION: the first consonant in a word is omitted (“ook” for “book”). Consonants in the middle of words can be deleted too.

  • BACKING: this is a speech error process some children display where they replace the sounds made at the front of the mouth (/t/, /d/ and /n/) with those made at the back (/k/, /g/ and /ng/).

A comprehensive list of phonological processes can be found here: http://littlebeespeech.com/resources/pdf/phonological_processes.pdf

PHONEME: a single speech sound unit – not the same as letters (eg. /t/ is a phoneme, whereas the letter “tee” contains two phonemes: /t/ and /ee/).

FLUENCY: this is the over-arching term used to discuss stuttering. ‘Fluent’ refers to stutter-free speech and ‘disfluent’ to stuttered.

  • LANGUAGE: a system to communicate thoughts and ideas between people. It involves both listening and understanding other people’s communication as well as being able to communicate yourself. Language encompasses everything from the meaning of words to grammar and knowing how to structure a sentence correctly to being able to stick to unspoken social rules about how to have a conversation.

  • EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE: using words/phrases/sentences to communicate a message to another person.

  • RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE: understanding the words/phrases/sentences communicated by others.

  • PRAGMATICS: the use of language in social contexts (eg. Knowing what the right thing to say is in a given situation, taking turns in conversation, keeping to a topic).

This is just an overview of some of the words you may hear while attending speech therapy with your child. Don’t hesitate to ask your Speech Pathologist for an explanation if there are any terms you don’t understand. You're welcome to give us a call on 8353 5543 if you want to discuss any concerns about your child in these areas.


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