What are Phonological Processes?
Have you ever noticed how children simplify words and make small errors (often in a very ‘cute’ way!) when they’re learning to speak like adults? Things like calling water ‘wawa’ or banana ‘nana’ happen with all little ones, and it is something that typically developing children will naturally grow out of. These speech error patterns are known as Phonological Processes, and thanks to research into the field of Speech Pathology and language acquisition, we know a lot about them!
In our Speech Pathology clinics, we see a lot of young children for Early Intervention speech therapy. One of the most common challenges, that is quickly noticeable by adults and friends, are speech errors caused by phonological processes that are late to resolve. When a child doesn’t naturally grow out of a phonological process, during the typical timeframe, it can create difficulties in social settings like when visiting friends and family and interacting with other kids and school.
Let’s take a look at what Phonological Processes (or speech sound error patterns) are out there and when you can expect typically developing children to progress past them.
What are Phonological Processes?
As mentioned, Phonological Processes are predictable speech sound errors that occur as children are learning to talk. Yes, that’s right, children don’t magically begin talking like tiny adults after a few months! Phonological Processes help to bridge the gap as children are developing their speech and language skills. They make it easier for a child to communicate with those around them, so really, Phonological Processes are quite helpful.
However, when Phonological Processes continue long after a child should have progressed past them, that’s where there is a cause for concern.
For a full list of Phonological Processes (and developmental timeframes) download our free flyer here.
Here are some of the most common Phonological Processes:
- Backing – Saying ‘gog’ for ‘dog’
- Fronting – Saying ‘tootie’ for ‘cookie’
- Gliding – Saying ‘wabbit’ for ‘rabbit’
- Stopping – Saying ‘pan’ for ‘fan’
- Final Consonant Deletion – Saying ‘toe’ for ‘toad’
- Weak Syllable Deletion – Saying ‘nana’ for ‘banana’
What are Phonological Disorders?
When a Phonological Process continues long after the age that’s developmentally appropriate, it’s worth speaking with a certified practising Speech Pathologist.
Phonological Disorders are a type of speech sound disorder that occur when a child is using a phonological process beyond the age that’s developmentally appropriate, or even creating variants on existing phonological processes. A child in this scenario would likely be very difficult to understand, even by the people closest to them.
Speech Therapy for Phonological Disorders
Treatment for children with Phonological Disorders usually involves targeting the error patterns they are making in therapy. A certified practising Speech Pathologist will perform an assessment and gather information during your initial appointment to help confirm a diagnosis and will then create a detailed therapy plan to support your child in developing typical speech patterns for their age.
When Should I See a Speech Pathologist?
While it may not be the case that your child is experiencing a Phonological Disorder, it’s always worth seeking the support of a Speech Therapist early. Engaging in Early Intervention therapy is one of the best ways to support your child and to ensure they’re ready for school and can interact effectively with others around them.
If you’re wondering at what point you should ask your GP or paediatrician for a referral, look at the age ranges listed on our free Phonological Processes flyer as a guide. For example, if your child says ‘tootie’ for ‘cookie’ after most children have stopped Fronting by three and a half years old, this would be a good reason to get a Speech Pathology assessment.
We hope you found this guide to Phonological Processes helpful! Don’t forget to download your free flyer here to keep track of the Phonological Processes your child will use as they develop and acquire more language. To learn more about our Speech Therapy services for kids, visit our page here.
*This information is general in nature.