Speech Problems

A stutter (stammer) or a lisp is cute in a toddler who is has just learned how to talk. But when you are a teenager (or even a grown up), you may become the subject of jokes or gossip. If you feel alone, know this. More than three million American’s have a speech disorder known as stuttering (stammering). And this is just one of the several cases involving a person’s speech.

Common Speech Disorders

  • Repeating the first syllable of a word
  • Holding a single sound for a long time
  • Trouble getting sounds out together

Stuttering or Stammering – is a speech problem which hinders fluent speech. It is complex can affect speech in several different ways. Characteristics of this speech problem are:

  • Speaking in bursts
  • Pauses in unexpected place
  • Jerky rhythm

Cluttering – a speech problem which affects the flow of speech. If stuttering is a speech disorder, then cluttering is a language disorder. A person who has this has trouble getting out what they want to say. They say what they think but it becomes disorganized while speaking. The speaker is usually unaware of the problem. Characteristics of this problem are:

  • Substituting an "r" with a "w"
  • Omitting sounds. For instance the letter "s" in spoon – "poon".
  • Adding sounds to words. For example "piano" becomes "pinanio".

Articulation disorders – encompass a wide range of errors people make when talking. Characteristics of  articulation disorders are:

Lisping – is a specific substitution of the letters "s" and "z" with "th".

Apraxia (dyspraxia) – also known as oral-motor speech disorder. In apraxia, there is a problem with motor coordination. People with this disorder have difficulty moving the muscles and other parts or structures necessary to form speech sounds into words.

Causes of Speech Problems

For people without speech problems, speaking seems effortless. But on the contrary, it is a complex process that requires a combination of precise timing, nerve, and muscle control.

Every time we speak, we coordinate muscles from various body parts – even systems – including the larynx. The larynx contains the vocal chords, the teeth, lips, tongue and mouth and the respiratory.

As with everything, our ability to understand language and produce speech is coordinated by the brain. A person with brain damage from an accident, stroke or birth defect may have speech and language problems.

Other causes of Speech Problems:

  • Hearing loss
  • Birth defects such as a cleft palate
  • Problems with other structures such as the lips, teeth and jaw
  • Genetics

How speech problems are treated

Speech problems – in people of any age – are usually treated through speech therapy. If you suspect that you have speech problems, inform your doctor. Your doctor may arrange a consultation with a speech therapist if he finds nothing wrong in your hearing and physical exams.

A speech-language pathologist is trained to observe people when they speak and identify what speech problems they may have. A speech-language therapist may do the following:

  • If you stutter, the pathologist will examine how and when you do so.
  • Evaluate their clients’ speech either by recording them on audio or videotape or by listening during conversation.
  • Use computerized analysis

You may also need to see a speech therapist- a person who is trained to cure speech disorders. The length of your treatment and how often you see you pathologist and/or therapist varies. Sessions with your therapist and/or pathologist may start out often, then decrease overtime.

You may also need to do exercises during your treatment. Some of these include:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Relaxation strategies designed to help relax your muscles when you speak
  • Posture control
  • A type of voice exercise called oral-motor exercises

You may need to do these exercises everyday on your own to help your treatment become successful.