Adult Service Areas

Treating stuttering (dysfluency), kids playing together

Articulation refers to the way our lips and tongue produce the sounds of speech. Any variation in the way a sound should be produced is perceived as an articulation error.

As listeners, our ears are so acutely tuned to the sounds of speech, that we pick up on the smallest of articulation errors. Some of these slight variations or articulation errors can be cute as a child, but become a nuisance in adolescence and adulthood. In some cases, depending on vocation, articulation errors can limit career advancement.

At Speech Pathways we have speech-language pathologists who specialize in providing speech therapy to adults. They will tailor the therapy to the individual adult’s needs in a manner that maximizes results as quickly as possible.

Why do some adults have articulation errors?

There are a variety of reasons for why adults can have articulation errors. The most common reason is habit. They may have made that articulation error as a child and just failed to outgrow it. The rule of thumb for articulation errors is this: If a child has not outgrown the articulation error by the age of 7, it is unlikely to happen, and they will require therapy to fix the sound. Some parents just keep waiting and waiting for their child, teen, young adult to outgrow the articulation error, but it just doesn’t happen.

Is Articulation Therapy successful for adults?

Absolutely! The old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” certainly does not apply to articulation therapy with adults. In fact, speech-language pathologists find that treating adult articulation yields faster results than with children! Let’s look at a few reasons for why that is: 1) adults are often far more motivated to correct their articulation errors in comparison to kids, 2) adults understand their speech therapist’s instructions on how to change the tongue or lip movements far quicker than children do, and 3) adults are more likely to practice their new, correct sound.

What are the most common articulation errors for adults?

1. The ‘R’ sound
This is one of the last sounds to develop in childhood, and some children just fail to acquire it. They continue to produce the sound with a glide of their tongue even into adulthood. For example, words like “hood” and “herd” sound the same when spoken by someone with this articulation error pattern.

2. Lisping the ‘S’ sound
This error pattern results from the tongue touching the teeth when producing the /s/ sound. There are varying degrees of a lisp. A mild lisp would be characterized by the tongue just barely touching the teeth. A mild lisp is just slightly perceptible to listeners. A moderate lisp is characterized by the tongue actually passing through the teeth. Listeners can hear that the /s/ sound has been distorted and even see the tongue through the teeth. A severe lisp is when the tongue actually protrudes through the lips when producing the /s/ sound. This can result in difficulties being understood, and even social ramifications.

3. Lateral lisp
A lateral lisp is the result of air escaping out the sides of the tongue when producing certain sounds. It can happen when articulating any of the following sounds: ‘s’, ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘j’. The resulting articulation error sounds “slushy” to the listener. Therapy can remediate this problem by teaching the individual to redirect the airflow through the centre of their mouth, rather than the sides.

4. The ‘th’ sound
This is another example of a later developing sound which some children fail to acquire. It is actually the opposite of a lisp. When correctly articulating the ‘th’ sound, the tongue should make contact with the teeth, or just slightly protrude through the teeth. Common substitution errors are: ‘f’ and/or ‘d’. For example, “thumb” may sound like “fumb”, and words like “the”, “this” and “that” may sound like “dah”, “dis”, and “dat”. This is an extremely easy articulation error to fix in therapy.

If you are an adult who is having difficulty articulating one or more of your sounds, stop waiting! We welcome the opportunity to make your articulation errors a thing of the past. You will love your new correct sound, (and perhaps even new-found confidence).