Speech Impairment: Definition, Categories, and Symptoms

This is a condition characterized by problems with talking even in the affected person’s own language. Both children and adults can have speech impairments. People with speech impairments experience a difficult time pronouncing different speech sounds.

While speech impairments and language impairments are frequently used interchangeably, they’re very different kinds of problems. Speech impairments restrict people from forming the right speech sounds, while language impairments affect people’s ability to learn words or comprehend what’s being said to them.

Speech impairments are distributed into three general categories. Voice disorder refers to an atypical tone of voice, fluency disorder stands for an unusual repetition of rhythm or sounds, and someone with an articulation disorder might distort certain sounds.

Speech impairments can be of different types. These include – childhood apraxia of speech, OMD (orofacial myofunctional disorders), dysarthria, stuttering, speech sound disorders, and a voice disorder. There’re also different reasons, such as an illness, surgery, or a traumatic event that might lead to speech impairments.

Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of someone developing a speech impairment include being born prematurely, having a family history of speech impairments, experiencing troubles that affect the nose, throat, or ears.

The symptoms of speech impairments vary significantly depending on the severity of the condition and on the cause. People may develop different speech impairments with different symptoms. Some of the common symptoms include prolonging or repeating sounds, adding syllables or sounds to words, distorting sounds, having trouble pronouncing words correctly, rearranging syllables, speaking very softly, speaking with a raspy or hoarse voice, etc.

Students with speech impairments might feel embarrassed, frustrated, and nervous when talking in the class and may take more time to answer oral questions for tests or in class.

An SLP (speech-language pathologist) is a healthcare professional who commonly sees and treats people with speech impairments. The SLP evaluates the person for symptoms that indicate the exact type of speech impairment.

The exact type of treatment of speech impairments also depends on the disorder’s underlying cause and severity. Treatment options may include – speech therapy exercises that emphasize developing familiarity with certain sounds or words and physical exercises that emphasize strengthening the muscles producing speech sounds.

Having speech impairments can be highly embarrassing and frustrating for someone. But some tips can greatly help such a person when communicating with someone else. These include – speaking slowly and using hand gestures, using simple phrases when speaking, using a normal tone of voice, maintaining a calm environment without stimulating sounds, etc.

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