Articulation Disorder: Understanding the Basics
July 27, 2023

Articulation Disorder: Understanding the Basics

Articulation disorder, a type of speech impairment characterized by difficulty in pronouncing specific sounds or words, can present a series of challenges when it comes to comprehension and diagnosis. This complex condition can often be perplexing, creating a need for straightforward, accessible information for those looking to learn more. In response to this need, we present a comprehensive guide that delves deep into the intricate world of articulation disorders.

Whether you’re a caregiver, a teacher, a healthcare provider, or an individual personally facing the challenge of an articulation disorder, understanding its nuances is pivotal. By breaking down the seemingly complex jargon and exploring the disorder’s various aspects - from cause and diagnosis to treatment - this guide provides an in-depth overview.

We believe knowledge is power. With a better understanding of articulation disorders, we can facilitate more effective and empathetic communication with those affected. This article serves as a vital first step in that journey, providing crucial insight into the primary facets of articulation disorders. As we unfold the complexities and delve into the essentials of articulation disorders, we hope to foster a deeper understanding and equip readers with valuable knowledge. Let’s navigate through the intricacies of articulation disorders together.

What is Articulation Disorder?

Articulation disorder refers to a type of speech disorder characterized by difficulties in correctly pronouncing specific sounds or words, resulting in common articulation errors. It is important to note that occasional mispronunciations are part of normal language development in children. However, persistent errors may indicate an underlying articulation disorder.

Imagine a puzzle, where every piece has its place and plays a role in creating a bigger picture. Now think of speech in the same way. It’s an intricate process involving many components - our tongue, lips, jaw, and even our brain - all working in harmony. When these parts don’t quite come together as they should, it can result in an articulation disorder.

What Causes Articulation Disorder?

The causes of articulation disorders can vary. Often, they are associated with developmental issues, giving rise to the term ‘developmental articulation disorder’. Some children may struggle to understand how to make certain sounds or might find it challenging to move their tongue, lips, or jaw in the correct way. Other factors like hearing loss, intellectual or developmental disabilities, or genetic syndromes can also contribute to the development of articulation disorders.

Developmental Challenges:

Just like learning to walk or tie shoelaces, learning to speak is a developmental milestone. Sometimes, a child may face hurdles in this journey leading to what we call a ’developmental articulation disorder.’ It’s one of the common stumbling blocks on the road to clear speech.

Sound Production Confusion:

For many of us, making different sounds comes naturally. However, some kids might find it challenging to understand how to make certain sounds. It’s like a tricky dance step that your feet just can’t seem to master!

Coordination Hurdles:

Speech is a performance, and our tongue, lips, and jaw are the lead actors! But what happens when these stars can’t coordinate their roles? It can result in difficulties articulating specific sounds or words accurately.

Underlying Health Conditions:

Sometimes, an articulation disorder might not be the main event but a side show to another condition. Hearing loss, for instance, can make it hard for a child to hear and replicate sounds correctly. Similarly, developmental disabilities and genetic syndromes can also influence speech development. speech girl

Common Signs and Symptoms of Articulation Disorder

Recognizing articulation disorders involves understanding their signs and symptoms. Here are some typical indicators:

  • Difficulty in Correctly Producing Specific Sounds
  • Sound Distortions
  • Sound Substitutions or Omissions
  • Inconsistent Speech Patterns, leading to confusion for the listener

Risk factors for articulation disorders include a family history of speech and language disorders, male gender, and chronic ear infections during early childhood.

How is Articulation Disorder Diagnosed?

Diagnosing an articulation disorder isn’t a process of guesswork but rather a systematic and thorough evaluation involving several stages. To help parents and caregivers understand what to expect, we’ll explore these stages in detail:

Meeting with a Speech-Language Pathologist:

The diagnosis of articulation disorders often starts with a visit to a certified speech-language pathologist, also known as an SLP. These professionals specialize in diagnosing and treating a range of speech and language problems.

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Speech Assessment:

During this stage, the SLP will conduct a detailed evaluation of the child’s speech. They observe how the child articulates sounds in different situations – during a conversation, while reading, or when repeating specific sounds or words. This close observation allows the SLP to identify any persistent patterns of articulation errors.

Now, you might be wondering, “How do healthcare professionals classify and diagnose an articulation disorder?”

That’s where the International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision (ICD-10) comes in.

Diagnosing Articulation Disorder Using ICD-10 Criteria

ICD-10 serves as a standardized global language for diagnosing and classifying various health conditions. It’s like a dictionary that healthcare professionals across the world can refer to for understanding and communicating health-related issues.

ICD-10 codes for articulation disorder

In terms of articulation disorders, the ICD-10 code F80.0 - Phonological Disorder is used. Now, don’t let the term “phonological” confuse you. This category encompasses articulation disorders and other related speech sound disorders. Essentially, it’s a way for healthcare professionals to categorize and communicate about this type of speech difficulty in a standardized way.

By exploring how an articulation disorder is diagnosed, we can better prepare for and understand the journey towards more fluent and confident speech. So, let’s continue this journey together.

Phonological Disorder vs. Articulation Disorder

Phonological disorders and articulation disorders are distinct from each other:

Key differences between phonological and articulation disorders

Phonological Disorders

These refer to difficulties in understanding or using the sound system of a language, resulting in patterned speech errors.

Articulation Disorders

These involve difficulties in the physical production of specific speech sounds, without an underlying difficulty in understanding the sound system.

Examples of Articulation Disorder

Different types of articulation disorders can be identified through case studies:

  • Omissions: A child may frequently omit final consonants in words, such as saying “ca” instead of “cat.”

  • Sound Substitution: Another child may replace the ‘s’ sound with ‘th,’ saying “thun” instead of “sun.” This is an example of sound substitution, another type of articulation disorder.

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Treatment Options for Articulation Disorder

Several effective treatment options are available for children with articulation disorders:

Speech Therapy Techniques and Interventions: Speech therapy is the primary treatment approach for articulation disorders. It employs specific techniques to improve speech articulation, including:

  • Utilizing visual aids and demonstrations
  • Conducting auditory training and phonetic placement exercises
  • Practicing sound repetition drills
  • Engaging in sessions for sounds, words, and sentences
  • Early intervention and appropriate therapy can help children with articulation disorders make significant progress.

There are also many articulation apps for furthering the individual’s daily interventions at home or on the go.


Q: What are the signs and symptoms of articulation disorder?

A: Symptoms include difficulty in producing certain sounds, distorting sounds, substituting or omitting sounds.

Q: How is articulation disorder diagnosed using the ICD-10 criteria?

A: Articulation disorder is coded as F80.0 - Phonological Disorder in the ICD-10 system.

Q: What is the difference between phonological and articulation disorders?

A: Phonological disorders involve difficulty understanding or using a language’s sound system, while articulation disorders involve difficulties in the physical production of specific sounds.

Q: Can you provide examples of articulation disorder?

A: Examples include a child omitting the final consonant in words (‘cat’ becoming ‘ca’) or substituting ‘th’ for ‘s’ (‘sun’ becoming ‘thun’).

Q: What are the treatment options for improving articulation skills?

A: Treatment primarily involves speech therapy techniques like auditory training, phonetic placement, and sound repetition drills.

This in-depth article provides a comprehensive understanding of articulation disorders, covering their definition, causes, signs, diagnosis, and treatment options. Armed with this knowledge, parents, teachers, and caregivers can better support children experiencing speech articulation issues.


This article is examined by Clinical Child Psychologist and Ph. D. Researcher Kevser Çakmak, and produced by Otsimo Editorial Team.

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This post does not provide medical advice. See Additional Information.