In this section
Articulation and phonology (fon-ol-oji) refer to the way sound is produced. A child with an articulation disorder has problems forming speech sounds properly. A child with a phonological disorder can produce the sounds correctly, but may use them in the wrong place.
When young children are growing, they develop speech sounds in a predictable order. It is normal for young children to make speech errors as their language develops; however, children with an articulation or phonological disorder will be difficult to understand when other children their
age are already speaking clearly.
A qualified speech pathologist should assess your child if there are any concerns about the quality of the sounds they make, the way they talk, or their ability to be understood.
Articulation refers to making sounds. The production of sounds involves the coordinated movements of the lips, tongue, teeth, palate (top of the mouth) and respiratory system (lungs). There are also many different nerves and muscles used for speech.
If your child has an articulation disorder, they:
Phonology refers to the pattern in which sounds are put together to make words.
If your child has a phonological disorder, they:
Phonological disorders and phonemic awareness disorders (the understanding of sounds and sound rules in words) have been linked to ongoing problems with language and literacy. It is therefore important to make sure that your child gets the most appropriate treatment.
It can be much more difficult to understand children with phonological disorders compared to children with pure articulation disorders. Children with phonological disorders often have problems with many different sounds, not just one.
If you (or anyone else in regular contact with your child, such as their teacher) have any concerns about your child's speech, ask your GP or paediatrician to arrange an assessment with a speech pathologist. You can also arrange to see a speech pathologist directly;
however, the fees may be higher.
A qualified speech pathologist should assess your child if there are any concerns about their speech. A speech pathologist can identify the cause, and plan treatment with your child and family. Treatment may include regular appointments and exercises for you to do with your child at
With appropriate speech therapy, many children with articulation or phonological disorders will have significant improvement in their speech.
Articulation or phonological difficulties are generally not a direct result of brain injury. Children with an acquired brain injury may have different difficulties with their speech patterns. These are generally caused by
dysarthria. Some children with acquired brain injuries may also have difficulties with literacy and language. See our fact sheets Dysarthria and Dyspraxia.
Could my child just catch up eventually and grow out of an
Some speech disorders can persist well into teenage and
adult life. When a person is older, it is much more difficult to correct these
problems. Most children with a diagnosed articulation/phonological disorder
will need speech therapy.
What causes articulation and phonological disorders?
In most children, there is no known cause for
articulation and phonological disorders. In some, the disorder may be due to a
structural problem or from imitating behaviours and the creation of bad habits.
Regardless of the cause, your child's speech therapist will be able to assist
with the recommended treatment.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Paediatric Rehabilitation Service and Speech Pathology department. Adapted with permission from a fact sheet from the Brain Injury Service at Westmead Children's Hospital. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed July 2018.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.