What is a Speech Disorder?

Speech is HOW we say sounds and words. It is the physical movements we make to produce sounds. A speech disorder is the inability to say sounds and words appropriately – therefore causing you to become unintelligible (not easily understood).

Someone who has a speech disorder may have an Articulation disorder (speech-sound), a Fluency disorder, or a Voice disorder.  Below are the breakdowns of the different types:


Articulation refers to the ability to produce specific sounds in order to express thoughts and feelings. You must be able to coordinate your ‘articulators’ in order to create the sounds within your language. Articulators refer to you lips, teeth, tongue, palate, jaw, and vocal folds.

Most people just speak and don’t think of all of the work and coordination that actually goes in to it.

Repeat this sentence “Lauren’s cats like climbing on the shelves” , and while you do, pay attention to your tongue.

How quickly does it move?  How often does the tip of your tongue hit upon the lips, teeth, and palate?  How often do the sides of you tongue hit your teeth?

Now keep in mind that I am just having you look at one single articulator (tongue)—if you want to also pay attention to all the different articulators mentioned (lips, teeth, jaw, palate) while doing the sentence, you will notice an even greater amount of movement.

Now imagine that you don’t make then /l/ sound correctly, or you omit it completely. Your sentence will have changed to ” auren’s cats ike cimbing on the sheves”, which could make you difficult to understand.  This would mean you have a speech disorder.  Specifically, an articulation disorder.  This example would be a very mild articulation disorder since you are only making an error on one sound, most children with an articulation disorder will have more than one sound error, making them even more difficult to understand.


Fluency refers to the smoothness, rate, and effort someone has when speaking.  Stuttering is the most common fluency disorder. It is classified as an interruption in the flow of speaking. Most people think of stuttering and only think of one thing…a person who repeats the first sound in a word. However, there are different types of stuttering. Yes, you may repeat the first sound in a word multiple times; you may also repeat syllables or whole words multiple times. But, you may be someone who uses prolongations or blocks. Prolongations are when the first sound is held for a long time, not repeating, just held out. A block is the inability to make the first sound and begin to speak. Almost like you are stuck and can’t push the sound out.


Voice is how we make our sounds using our breath and vocal folds. We can vary our voice to be soft, loud, high-pitched, or low-pitched. Someone who has a voice disorder has abnormal pitch, loudness, or quality. A voice disorder can be caused by misuse/abuse of your voice or by structural issues. For instance, someone who yells a lot or doesn’t use proper breath support may end up with a hoarse voice and may damage their vocal folds. An example of a structural issue may be having a vocal nodule (basically a blister on your vocal folds), which would cause the voice to become breathy.

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