Category: Blog

What is the difference between a phonological disorder and an articulation disorder?

As children mature they do not always gain the control to produce speech sounds in a clear concise manner. Actually, along the way of mastering speech production, children often tend to make several mistakes. Depending on their age at which they are still making these mistakes and/or the amount of their mistakes they are making helps determine if it is truly a disorder or not. Each individual speech sound has a different age range as to when the child should make a particular sound correctly.

Phonological Disorder
A common speech sound disorder is a phonological disorder which is a sound pattern problem. A phonological disorder or problem consists of patterns of sound errors involving altering the structure of words and/or substituting speech sounds. This pattern of sounds may be that the child makes all of the sounds that are supposed to be made in the back of the mouth, in the front of the mouth. For example, saying “tup” for “cup” or “do” for “go” involves substituting the /k/ and /g/ sounds in the back of the mouth for sounds in the front of the mouth, /t/ and /d/. This is known as “fronting”. “Cluster reduction” is another speech pattern problem which consists of taking a sound blend such as /gr/, /st/, /bl/, or /fl/ and omitting one of the sounds. Some examples of this are: “green” becomes “geen”, “street” becomes “teet”, “blue” becomes “boo” and “flag” becomes “fag”. Another pattern problem known as “final consonant deletion” involves speech sound errors which occur in a particular pattern, such as having a child leave off all or most of the end sounds of words such as “ba” for “ball” leaving off the /l/, “dah” for “dog” leaving off /g/, and “ki” for “kite” leaving off the /t/.

Articulation Disorder
An articulation disorder or problem is a speech sound problem involving not being able to make or produce individual sounds. An articulation disorder is the substituting(child says: /bish/ for /fish/), distorting (child says: /thpoon/ for /spoon/), omitting (child says: /cool/ for /school/) or adding (child says: /pban/ for /pan/) of sounds. This decreases a child’s speech clarity significantly, making it difficult to understand their speech. Children may have only a few sounds in error or several errors. Every child is different. Those children who have several errors are sometimes unable to be understood at all unless the subject matter which they are talking about is known to their listener. These errors that they do make will be consistently on the same sounds in a variety of words. For example, the /r/ sound may be substituted for /w/ and would then be produced as “wabbit”. The /r/ sound may be in error in the initial, medial, and final positions of words. For example, the word “race” becomes “wace”, “carrot” becomes “cawwot”, and “car” becomes “caw”.


What do I do if I think my child has a phonological or an articulation problem?

If you suspect that your child’s speech has a phonological or articulation disorder a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a professional that analyzes and evaluates speech and language difficulties. You will want to contact your pediatrician (or your school district) and share your concerns with him or her. The pediatrician (or school district) will provide you with a referral to a speech-language pathologist to evaluate your child’s speech production and communication functioning. Your pediatrician (or school) and the SLP may recommend that you have a hearing evaluation to rule out a hearing loss which may be negatively impacting your child’s ability to perceive sound. The SLP will conduct an evaluation of your child’s speech sound productions, the oral mechanism, and often language development to determine their overall communication abilities.

Depending on the severity of your child’s speech disorder, their ability to effectively communicate their needs, wants, thoughts and ideas may be compromised. School aged children with a speech disorder may have difficulty interacting with their peers and with communicating information to their teachers. Children with these disorders are at an increased risk for later reading, difficulty with spelling and learning disabilities, and they should be treated with speech therapy once they are diagnosed.

Our latest app, Sounds With The Speech Wizard is available through iTunes.  It is only $6.99and has a Lite version to try it out before you buy it.

This app has had over 2,000 downloads in its very first month and is getting widely used from the school setting, homes, and clinics.

This app offers a variety of fun and engaging activities to improve listening skills through sound discrimination.  It is also a great app for teaching children to answer yes/no questions.  We are sure you’ll find it as beneficial as we do in our private practice.

Sounds With The Speech Wizard App
Sounds With The Speech Wizard App

What Do You Hear screenshotMatch The Sound screenshotactivity 3 revised

As a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) there are several specialties you may acquire if you choose. Pediatric feeding therapy happens to be one of mine, along with assistive technology. And while many occupational therapists treat feeding problems, there are also many SLP’s who work with this.

“Picky eating”, “feeding problem”, “feeding disorder”, whatever label you want to give it, is on the rise so I feel obligated to share some information on this topic. Approximately half (if not more) of my private practice has been and continues to be made up of pediatric feeding therapy.   My specialty of pediatric feeding is a result of countless hours of additional studying from many amazing leaders in this area. My success in this field is from a combination of techniques learned and practiced from a variety of experts, but mostly from the SOS Approach to Feeding with Kay Toomey.

It seems really odd to most as to why a child just does not eat. And then to make things even more unusual, why is it that they will eat one food on one day, and then won’t eat again? Or perhaps you have experienced the opposite of this. This would be when children who will eat but it needs to be the exact same food day and night everyday and they sometimes even get upset if it isn’t offered to them on daily basis.   So there is no doubt that this is frustrating and can become a giant inconvenience. Most families in this situation are not able to attend some social gatherings due to food aversions and/or possibly cannot enjoy a meal out because their child will not eat anything on a restaurant menu.

So before we jump into what do we do about it, I really need to share (or shut down) some common myths to feeding.

Myth 1- Eating is instinctive.
False- Eating is only instinctive for the 1st month of life, then reflexive until 6 months. Eating after this is completely learned behavior.

Myth 2- If a child is hungry they will eat. They will not starve themselves.
False- 4-6% of the pediatric population who have feeding problems, they will “starve” themselves (usually inadvertently however). For the majority of these children, feeding does not work and/or it hurts, and no amount of hunger is going to overcome that fact.

Myth 3- If a child won’t eat, there is EITHER a behavioral OR an organic problem.
False- Various research studies (Kay Toomey and Associates) indicates that between 65-95% of all children with feeding problems have a combination of behavioral AND organic problems. If you have a physical problem with eating, you are going to quickly learn that eating doesn’t work, it hurts, and you will develop a set of behaviors to avoid the task. If you start with a purely behavioral/environment reason for not eating, your compromised nutritional status will quickly begin to cause organic problems. They generally coexist.

(“SOS Approach to Feeding by Kay Toomey & Associates”)
While pediatric feeding is one of my passions as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I do not and cannot do it all alone. It is crucial that it is approached and worked on as a team approach. I am fortunate to have an amazing team that includes an Occupational Therapist, Phd. Psychologist, and many medical doctors.

Since this is an important area of my practice I will be posting more articles on the topic of pediatric feeding in the future. I encourage your feedback.  Please feel free to write to me if you have further questions or would like more information regarding pediatric feeding at

Fun Bites is a product that was on Shark Tank (my favorite TV show) that I wanted to share.  As a pediatric feeding therapist, I feel this may help some parents with helping to get your child more interested in eating what you are serving.  I use cookie cutters of all different shapes and sizes, however this can cut more at a time.  This product will certainly be added to my collection at the clinic.

Please feel free to write if you have any questions!  We’d love to help!


Parents often ask me why their child won’t talk. Some parents even come right out and say that they think their child is choosing not to speak, their child is lazy, or is sometimes just straight up stubborn. I want to try to assure you that if a child could speak, please believe me when I say this…They would! It’s very important to me to let parents (and even therapists) know that there is a big difference between can’t speak vs. won’t speak.

The processes involved to communicate are very complex and there are multiple possible reasons for their delay in speaking. If a child is not talking they may be experiencing some delays in perhaps one or more of the following: cognition, coordination or motor planning problems, muscle strength, or possibly neurological functioning.

I have to share that there is absolutely no question that children truly do want the easiest means to communicate their needs and wants. I strongly believe that children do not refuse to speak (unless in very rare cases they are experiencing selective mutism) and that their delays do have a true underlying cause instead of just behavior. With that said, there certainly are negative behaviors that do form around their struggles and frustrations to speak, however those are secondary to the true cause.

Now to be completely honest there are some times that we do not really know the exact reason why two and three year olds are still not talking during their first initial evaluation. Knowing what the true problem is may take multiple sessions to determine this. In the meantime, many professionals will give a general label of “expressive language delay” which usually is enough to get therapy sessions authorized by insurance and to get started right away.

As I have said before in other past articles, if you suspect there is a problem or delay speaking, get your child evaluated by a licensed speech-language pathologist. Many speech-language pathology issues are remediable with time, so please try not to assume that your child has terrible behavior and is refusing to speak. More than likely they may actually have a physiological reason causing their delayed speaking. During my 15 years of speech & language therapy, I have found some parents that I have met unfortunately seem to prefer facing they delay in speaking as a behavior problem so they do not have to face that their child may have a developmental disability. This has to be tough to face this without a doubt, but it will

So a speech delay may just be that…a delay in which the child needs a little help to understand and use our complex language structure. Please do not ignore your child’s lack of talking by thinking that they’ll “grow out of it” or that “they are just more interested in playing with their toys”. It is very important to know what is “normal” so you can figure out if you should be concerned. Please don’t hesitate in seeking advice or try the wait and see approach. When in doubt ask your pediatrician for a referral to rule out a speech and language delay or disorder.

Sounds With The Speech Wizard Icon


The Speech Wizard has released a LITE version of “Sounds With The Speech Wizard” to allow everyone to try it before you buy it.

Sounds With The Speech Wizard was created to improve listening skills through our variety of auditory discrimination activities.  It offers many different settings to adjust the perfect amount of stimuli for each child.  It also has the ability to de-select pictures if necessary.

Each Activity offers a fresh new game-like activity for the child to practice their listening and sound recognition skills.  This is a critical step in remediating articulation and phonological disorders.  If the child is not being a good listener, they will not realize that they are making any errors of their own speech productions.  This is just a fun way to increase their awareness to help carryover and to improve their listening to their own speech sounds.

TIP:  This app is also a great therapy tool for teaching children to answer Yes/No in a reliable manner.  You may use the four pictures on What Do You Hear- Activity 1 and ask the child after the sound is played if each picture made that sound… “yes or no”.  It works wonders in our private practice!

We made certain that this app offered buttons to advance and reverse back to images in case “little fingers” change it for us.  The other great feature we are proud to include is our Free Bonus Training Video Series to give our customers added support when they buy our apps.  These videos include learning more about the iPad as a therapy tool and apps to use for communication delays/disorders, how to use Guided Access, and some therapy techniques.

As part of our mission to help families with children that have communication delays/disorders worldwide, we offer this app in 6 languages including: English, Mandarin, Spanish, Persian, Japanese, and Korean.

Hope you all enjoy it as much as we do!

Shawn Manvell M.S., CCC-SLP
Creator of The Speech Wizard Apps