Communication Sciences & Disorders
School of Applied Sciences, University of Mississippi

Speech Language Disorders
And the Speech Language Pathologist

What are speech and language disorders?
Speech and language disorders are inabilities of individuals to understand and/or appropriately use the speech and language systems of society. Such disorders may range from simple sound repetitions or occasional misarticulations to the complete absence of the ability to use speech and language for communication.

Why are speech and language disorders serious?
The ability to communicate is our most human characteristic. When a person cannot communicate, isolation from friends, family and society often occurs. Individuals with speech and language disorders may encounter this isolation in vocational, social, emotional and educational areas. For example, adults with speech and language disorders may find it difficult to gain employment or may be forced into less satisfying jobs because of their inability to communicate effectively. Also, school children may experience difficulties in learning because of speech or language problems.

How many persons have speech and language disorders?

  • Nearly 10 million Americans, or 1 out of every 20 persons, suffer from a speech-language disorder.
    Each year, 60,000 Americans suffer from aphasia, the loss of the ability to use speech and language, due to a stroke or head injury.
  • There are 30,000 Americans who have undergone surgery for laryngeal cancer, and 8,000 new cases of laryngeal cancer are discovered annually.
  • There are more than one million persons in the United States who stutter, one-half whom are children.
  • Articulation disorders constitute the most numerous of all speech disorders. About 3 out of 5 of all speech and language disorders are related to articulatory problems.

What are some types of speech and language disorders?

Speech disorders may include:

  • Fluency disorder-an interruption in the flow or rhythm of speech characterized by hesitations, repetitions, or prolongations of nouns, syllables, words or phrases.
  • Articulation disorder-difficulties with the way sounds are formed and strung together usually characterized by substituting one sound for another (wabbit for rabbit), omitting a sound (han for hand) and distorting a sound (shlip for sip).
  • Voice disorder-characterized by inappropriate pitch (too high, too low never changing or interrupted by breaks; quality (harsh, hoarse, breathy or nasal); loudness, resonance, and duration.
  • Language disorders may include:
  • Aphasia-the loss of speech and language abilities generally resulting from stroke.
  • Delayed language-characterized by a marked slowness in the development of language skills necessary for expressing and understanding thoughts and ideas.

What are the causes of speech and language disorders?

Some of the causes of speech and language disorders are related to hearing loss, short memory span, cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular disorders, severe head injuries, stroke, viral diseases, certain drugs, physical impairments such as cleft lip or palate, and inadequate speech and language models in the home environment. The majority of voice disorders in children usually result from frequent vocal abuse associated with excessive throat clearing, coughing screaming, or yelling. This abuse can cause inflammation of the larynx (vocal cords), or the formation of nodules and polyps, which are small growths, on the vocal cords. Allergies, smoking, and the consumption of alcoholic beverages are other factors which may adversely affect the larynx (vocal cords) resulting in varying degrees of voice disorder.

How can the speech-language pathology help persons with speech and language disorders?

The clinical methods used will vary depending on the nature and severity of the problem, the age of the individuals, and the individual’s awareness of the problem. Speech-language pathologists:

  • Help individual’s with articulation disorders to learn proper production of speech sounds.
  • Assist individuals with voice disorders to develop proper control of the vocal and respiratory systems for correct voice production.
  • Assist individuals who stutter to cope with their disorder and increase the amount of fluent speech.
  • Assist individuals with aphasia to relearn language and speech skills such as work recall and the e ability to produce speech sounds.
  • Counsel individuals with speech and language disorder to understand their disorder and to achieve more nor al communication in educational, social and vocational settings.
  • Advise individuals and the community on how to prevent speech and language disorders.
  • Help individuals understand the types and severity of communication disorders.

In which settings do speech-language pathologists work?

Speech-language pathologists provide professional services in:

  • public and private schools
  • hospitals
  • rehabilitation centers
  • nursing care facilities
  • community clinics
  • colleges and universities
  • private practice
  • state and local health departments
  • state and federal government agencies
  • home care
  • adult day care centers
  • centers for the developmentally disabled

How is information in speech-language pathology advanced?

Some speech-language pathologists elect research activities to constitute a part or all of their career. Their work advances knowledge about how the normal speech mechanism functions or how it malfunctions in many disorder. They investigate the development of communication (speech and language) in young children as well as how it may be disordered in this and the older population. Their discoveries about normal and abnormal communication are frequently applied to provide better service to the speech and language impaired populations.