Monthly Archives: May 2017

What is a Fluency Disorder?

Greetings everyone!  I’m back for week four of Better Hearing and Speech Month (2017). This week’s topic is “What is a Fluency Disorder?”  We all have experienced some degree of disfluency (“stuttering”) as we are conversing with others.  Let’s take a closer look at “What is a Fluency Disorder?”…

Fluency Disorder or “Stuttering” is characterized by an abnormally high frequency and/or duration of stoppages in the forward flow of speech.  Many theories have been proposed regarding the cause of stuttering, ranging from genetic and other organic explanations to learned, environmental, or linguistic accounts.

The onset of stuttering usually occurs between two and five years of age and may emerge in a sudden or severe manner.  Some researchers report that approximately 80% of children who stutter will spontaneously recover before the age of puberty.

Categories of Stuttering Behaviors

There are two main categories of characteristics that are associated with stuttering:  core behaviors and secondary behaviors.

Core behaviors are the basic manifestations that seem beyond the voluntary control of the stutterer and include the following:

*Repetitions of sounds, syllables, or whole words (i.e., c-c-cat, ba-ba-balloon and we-we-we are going)
*Prolongations of single sounds (i.e., sssssoap and fffffishing)
*Blocks of airflow/voicing during speech (inappropriate stoppage of air or voice at any level of the vocal tract)

Secondary behaviors develop over time as learned reactions to the core behaviors and are categorized as escape or avoidance behaviors.  Escape behaviors occur during a stuttering moment and are attempts to break out of the stutter.  Common examples of escape behaviors include head nods, eye blinks, foot taps and jaw tremors.  In the more advanced stages of stuttering, these behaviors may be accompanied by visible struggle and muscular tension.  Avoidance behaviors occur in anticipation of a stuttering moment and are attempts to refrain from stuttering at all.  Typical avoidance behaviors are circumlocutions (substitutions of less feared vocabulary words), unfilled pauses without accompanying tension and struggle within or between words and use of “um” or other interjections to postpone speaking.

Most typically developing children between two and four years of age display relatively effortless disfluencies during the normal course of language acquisition:

*Hesitations (silent pauses)
*Interjections of sounds, syllables or words (i.e., “Um, I went to school” and “Did you you know find her?”)
*Revisions/repetitions of words, phrases or sentences (i.e., “You have to touch, no, turn it” and “I have some…I want you to look at these baseball cards”)
*Normal rhythm and stress patterns
*No tension or tremors noted

It is important to differentiate between these normal disfluencies and the atypical disfluencies in the following list, which are often the early signs of stuttering:

*Three or more within-word disfluencies per 100 words (especially fragmentation of syllables)
*Disfluencies on more than 10% of syllables spoken
*Predominant use of prolongations, blocks and part-word repetitions (as opposed to interjections and whole-word or phrase repetitions)
*Presence of secondary behaviors/increased tension
*Vowel neutralization (schwa) during repetitions (i.e., “buh-buh-beat”)
*Duration of single instance of disfluency that exceeds two seconds
*Uncontrolled or abrupt changes in pitch or loudness

It is my hope that you have gained an understanding of “What is a Fluency Disorder?”  If you suspect that your child exhibits the early characteristics of stuttering, please consult with a Speech-language pathologist as soon as possible!  I thank you for reading the above information and I encourage you to come back for week five’s discussion on “What is a Voice Disorder?”


Roth, Froma P. and Worthington, Colleen K.  Treatment Resource Manual for Speech-Language Pathology 2nd Edition.  Albany:  Singular Thomson Learning, 2001.  Print.





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Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Uncategorized


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What is a Language Disorder?

Greetings everyone!  I am back for week three of Better Hearing and Speech Month (2017).  I would like to share with you guys basic information on “What is a Language Disorder?  Let’s take a look below!

A language disorder can be defined as the abnormal acquisition, comprehension or use of spoken or written language.  This includes all receptive and expressive language skills.  The disorder may involve any aspect of the form, content or use components of the linguistic system.

Classification of Language Disorders

A disorder can involve both the comprehension and production of language.  Language comprehension (receptive language) refers to the ability to derive meaning from incoming auditory or visual messages.  Language production (expressive language) involves the combination of linguistic symbols to form meaningful messages.  Language disorders are general classified according to the major components of the linguistic system:

Semantics involves the meaning of individual words and the rules that govern the combinations of word meanings to form meaningful phrases and sentences.  Impairments in this subsystem can take the form of reduced vocabulary, restricted semantic categories, word retrieval deficits, poor word association skills and difficulty with figurative (nonliteral) language forms such as idioms, metaphors and humor.

Morphology involves the structure of words and the construction of individual word forms from the basic elements of meaning (i.e., morphemes).  Deficits in this component are manifested as difficulties with inflectional markers such as plurals, past tense, auxiliary verbs, possessives and so on.

Syntax involves the rules governing the order and combination of words in the construction of well-formed sentences.  Syntactic deficits are characterized by problems with simple and complex sentence types such as negatives, interrogatives, passives and relative clauses as well as occasional word-order difficulties.

Pragmatics involves the rules governing the use of language in social context.  Pragmatic impairments can include a reduced repertoire of communicative intentions, turn-taking difficulties in conversation, an inability to repair messages that are not understood by the listener and difficulty with narrative discourse such as storytelling.

Phonology involves the particular sounds (i.e., phonemes) that comprise the sound system of a language and the rules that govern permissible sound combinations.  Children with phonologically based problems demonstrate difficulty in acquiring a phonological system, not necessarily in production of the sounds.  These children do not simply possess an incomplete system of speech sounds; rather, their errors have logical and coherent principles underlying their use.

I hope I have helped someone develop a better understanding of a language disorder.  If you suspect that your child has a language impairment, please consult with a Speech-language pathologist as soon as possible.  I thank you for taking the time to read the information that has been presented.  Week four’s topic of discussion will be “What is a Fluency Disorder?”


Roth, Froma P. and Worthington, Colleen K.  Treatment Resource Manual for Speech-Language Pathology 2nd Edition.  Albany:  Singular Thomson Learning, 2001.  Print.

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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Uncategorized


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Articulation/Phonological Disorder(s)

Hi everyone!  I’m back for week two of Better Hearing & Speech Month (2017).  This week, I’m focusing on “Articulation/Phonological Disorder(s).”

I know there are times when parents are a bit confused when the Speech-language pathologist tells them that their son or daughter doesn’t have an articulation disorder, but a phonological disorder.  I’m here to give a brief explanation of the difference between the two.


An Articulation Disorder is a speech disorder that affects the phonetic level (takes care of the motor act of producing the vowels and consonants, so that we have a repertoire of all the sounds we need in order to speak our language(s).  The child exhibits difficulty producing particular consonants and vowels.  The reason for this may be unknown (i.e., children with functional speech disorders who do not have serious problems with muscle function); or the reason may be known (i.e., children with dysarthria who do have serious problems with muscle function).

A Phonological Disorder is actually a language disorder that affects the phonological (phonemic-is in charge of the brainwork that goes into organizing the speech sounds into patterns of sound contrasts) level.  The sounds need to contrast with each other or be distinct from one another, so that we can make sense when we talk.

How do they differ?

In an Articulation Disorder, the child’s difficulty is at a phonetic level.  That is, the child is having trouble producing the individual speech sounds (even though there is nothing wrong with their articulators).

In a Phonological Disorder, the child’s difficulty is at a phonemic level (in the mind).  This phonemic level is sometimes referred to as “the linguistic level” or “a cognitive level.”

I hope now that you have a better understanding between the two!  If you suspect that your child exhibits difficulty with sound production, I recommend that you consult with a Speech-language pathologist to determine the next course of action.


Bowen, C. (2011).  What is the difference between an articulation disorder and a phonological disorder?  Retrieved from on May 11, 2017.

Note:  On week three, I will be discussing “What is a Language Disorder?”  I look forward to engaging with you regarding this topic.  Thank you!

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Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Uncategorized


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What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?

Hi everyone!  I apologize for posting this topic so late.  I have been really busy with work, this week, and wasn’t able to post at the beginning of the week to kick off the celebration of “Better Hearing and Speech Month” (for the month of “May”).  But, I guess it’s better late than never…:)

For week one, I would like to give a brief explanation of “What is a Speech-language pathologist?”  Often times, many people have heard of a “Speech-Language Pathologist,” but don’t have a general understanding of what our work entails…The information presented below will assist in developing a better understanding of “What is a Speech-Language Pathologist?”


The need for a professional to deal with disorders of speech was identified in the 1920s; however. “speech correctionists” were not introduced to the schools until the 1950s.  IN the beginning, speech correctionists dealt with articulation, but over the years, the field has grown to include voice, fluency, language, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), accent reduction, acquistion and oral-motor evaluations and therapies.  SLPs deal with people of all ages in schools, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and private practice.

Education and Certification:

There are four professional terms associated with speech therapy:

  1.  “Speech Correctionists”
  2.   “Speech Therapists”
  3.   “Speech-Language Pathologist” or “Speech Pathologist”
  4.   “Speech-Language Specialist”

These four terms are often used interchangeably, but can mean different things.  In the 1950s, a person would receive a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Correction.  This certificate was given until the mid-eighties when the requirements for the teaching certificate changed.

Today, in order to work in most schools, an SLP must obtain “Speech-Language Specialist” or “Speech-Language Pathologist” certificate which requires a master’s degree and approximately 300 clinical hours in diagnostics and interventions.

The master’s program for Speech-Language Pathology is unique in that it combines science, education, medicine and psychology.  Most graduate program 40-60 graduate credits, in addition to several clinical internships.

SLPs may also be registered to obtain two additional certificates:  The Certificate of Clinical Competence and a state license (CCC).  The CCCs are issued when the SLP completes a master’s degree, 375 hours of supervised clinical hours in communication disorders and therapy, a passing score on the ASHA exam and completion of a Clinical Fellowship Year.  State license requirements vary.  SLPs are usually praxis referred to as “Speech-Language Pathologists” or “Speech Therapists.”

Job Duties:

School-Based Program:  Articulation therapy, Voice therapy, Stuttering therapy, Language therapy, Child Study Team Member, Group language lessons, Sign language programs, Speech reading programs, Speech/language evaluations and Hearing screenings

Rehabilitative Program:  Dysphagia therapy, Videofloroscopy studies, Laryngectomy patients, Closed head injury, Stroke and trauma, Alzheimer’s patients, Cleft palate, Speech/language testing and Hearing screenings

Note:  The information presented above was derived from the “Super Duper Handy Handouts” called “What’s News in Speech!”  The author is Robyn Merkel-Piccini, M.A., CCC-SLP.

Thank you for taking the time to read the information presented above.  The next topic, for week two, will address Articulation/Phonology Disorder(s).


Posted by on May 6, 2017 in Uncategorized


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