Working with Phonological Errors

By: Jillian Klatt

On this particular day on the WonderBus Mrs. O worked with a student who has a phonological processing disorder. This type of disorder is marked by articulation errors that follow a pattern. These errors are sort of like rules for how to use speech sounds that the individual makes up on their own, that do not follow the usual rules we all use in speech. Phonological processing disorders are all about how the individual uses speech sounds, not whether they can produce the sound. Therefore, therapy to treat phonological disorders has nothing to do with correcting a motor problem, and instead focuses on reorganizing the child’s speech sound repertoire.

For example, this student showed signs of strident deletion in almost all of her s- and sh-words. Strident deletion involves eliminating or substituting out speech sounds like s, z, f, v, ch, and sh.  Stopping is a form of strident deletion that occurs when a t, b, p, or d sound is added into a word where it normally does not exist. In the word “shark,” this student would place a t right after the sh sound, making the word “shtark.” Sometimes this student would drop her s sounds completely and change them out for t’s, like saying “Tanta” instead of “Santa.” Even though this student articulated many of her words incorrectly, she still has the ability to say all of the proper sounds. Like with the word “shark,” most times the student added an extra “t,” but sometimes the student pronounced the word correctly when prompted by Mrs. O to try again. This is a hallmark sign that the student can use the sound, she just has trouble determining when to use it.

In order to get the student to focus on the proper articulation of her s and sh sounds, Mrs. O hid some toys in a bag of Orbeez® and had her name the goodies she was finding. Some of the toys in the bag were a school bus, strawberry, star, fish, seahorse, and Santa. Notice that the s and sh sounds are in all sorts of locations in these words. This particular student exhibits strident deletion in the beginning, middle, and end of words, so it is best to practice all locations she has trouble with. In some situations, an SLP may chose to focus on one location at a time. However, this student was super eager for her session, so Mrs. O was able to take advantage of her energy and multitask. I don’t know what the student found more fun, finding the toys or feeling all the squishy Orbeez®!

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