What is Phonological Impairment?
Phonological deficit/impairment is one of the very common causes of speech sound disorder, which makes an individual (typically kids) experience language difficulties that are very evident while the individual is trying to learn the phonological system of the language. This is a result of the cognitive-linguistic difficulties seen here. Children with this condition cannot use the part or all of the phonemes in a language to make words, as expected for the child at that age.
Phonological impairment can be categorized into two types – consistent and inconsistent. Consistent phonological impairment is where the child makes phonological errors that are unusual or idiosyncratic (particular to the child) and aren’t typically observed in developing children. The child may also display delayed developmental phonological errors that aren’t common for his age range.
Inconsistent phonological disorder is where the child shows all the aforesaid symptoms, namely making unusual or idiosyncratic mistakes, along with probable delayed developmental phonological errors. Additionally, the child’s construction of single words demonstrates high variability. As a result, the child may produce a single word in different ways.
Several phonological errors are developmental. These are normal components of speech development. As a child’s speech undergoes maturity and development, these phonological errors weaken and finally get eliminated.
Typically, developmental phonological errors include:
- Consonant harmony
- Context-sensitive voicing
- Weak syllable deletion
- Final consonant deletion
- Cluster reduction
Some unusual phonological errors made by children are:
- Initial consonant deletion, where a word’s initial consonant is omitted, like saying at instead of cat;
- Backing, where sounds produced at the front of the mouth like /d/ and /t/ are replaced by sounds produced towards the back of the mouth like /g/ and /c/, such as uttering goll instead of doll or cop in lieu of top;
- Glottal replacement, which refers to the replacement of a consonant sound by a stop sound made in the glottal, such as pu-ee instead of puppy; and
- Metathesis, where the order of a word’s consonants is changed, like saying efalant instead of elephant.
- Affrication of plosives, which refers to making a plosive sound as an affricate, like saying choy instead of toy or jog in place of dog.
- Glottal insertion, where a stop sound produced at the glottal is used in the child’s creation of a word, like uttering pu-py instead of puppy.
Milder forms of phonological impairment go away on their own by approximately the age of 6. If not, parents should get their child tested by a speech-language pathologist. They should also consult a medical professional if their child is still hard to understand by age 4; can’t make particular sounds by age 6; changes, leaves out, or substitutes particular sounds at age 7; or has speech problems that cause humiliation. Some other tests should also be run to rule out conditions that aren’t connected with phonological impairment. Such disorders could be hearing impairment, cognitive problems (like intellectual disability), physical issues like cleft palate, and neurological conditions (say, cerebral palsy).