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Speech Delay

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Speech delay is the failure to develop speech capabilities at the expected chronological age. The child may progress through expected developmental milestones in a sequential order but their progress lags several months behind their typically-developing peers. Speech delay may present as a phonetic delay (articulation delay) or a phonological delay – or the two may co-exist. This article presents some phonetic and phonological developmental milestones that can be used to assess delayed speech.

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Phonological Processes

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Young children have insufficient ability to co-ordinate the movement of their vocal apparatus. Therefore, they simplify the production of complex words. These simplifications are not random but predictable. Many phonological processes have been identified. This article considers structural simplifications such as deletion, metathesis and cluster reduction, and systemic simplifications such as substitutions and assimilations.

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Phonological Disorder

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Phonological processes help the developing child by simplifying the production of complex speech. If these processes are not eradicated by an appropriate age the child may present with a phonological disorder: systematically altering the structure of words and/or substituting speech sounds.

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Phonological Organization

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The speech sound system is organized at least at three levels: phonemic, syllabic and word. This is known as phonological organization.

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Allophones

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Unlike phonemes, allophones do not create distinctions in meaning between one word and another. They are variant ways of articulating the same phoneme. That is to say, they are predictable phonetic variants.

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