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Alternative NamesArticulation deficiency; Voice disorders; Disfluency
Definition Return to top
Speech disorders refer to several conditions in which a person has difficulty communicating by mouth.
See also: Speech impairment
Causes Return to top
Speech is one of the primary ways we communicate with those around us. It is an effective way to monitor normal growth and development as well as to identify potential problems.
Disfluencies are rhythm disorders that are usually characterized by the repetition of a sound, word, or phrase. Stuttering is perhaps the most serious disfluency.
Articulation deficiencies involve sounds made incorrectly or inappropriately.
Voice disorders involve abnormalities in the quality, pitch, and loudness of the sound.
There are many potential causes of speech impairment. The most common cause is mental retardation. Other causes may include:
Delayed speech development is one of the common symptoms of developmentally delayed children. It occurs in 5 - 10% of all children. Boys are three to four times as likely to have speech disorders as girls.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Treatment Return to top
The best treatment is prevention and early intervention by a speech pathologist. Speech training is an involved and time-consuming endeavor that can have profound results with consistent treatment.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The prognosis depends on the cause of the disorder. Usually, speech can be improved with speech therapy. Prognosis improves with early intervention.
Possible Complications Return to top
Speech disorders may lead to psychosocial problems associated with ineffective communication.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if:
Prevention Return to top
Mental retardation and hearing loss make children more likely to develop speech disorders. At-risk infants should be referred to an audiologist for an audiology exam. Audiological and speech therapy can then be started, if necessary.
As young children begin to speak, some disfluency is common. Children lack a large vocabulary and have difficulty expressing themselves. This results in broken speech. If you place excessive attention on the disfluency, a stuttering pattern may develop. The best way to prevent stuttering, therefore, is to avoid paying too much attention to the disfluency.Update Date: 4/22/2008 Updated by: Alan Lipkin, MD, Otolaryngologist, Private Practice, Denver, Colorado. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.