Speech disorders - children


A speech disorder is a condition in which a person has problems creating or forming the speech sounds needed to communicate with others.

Common speech disorders are:

Speech disorders are different from language disorders in children. Language disorders refer to someone having difficulty with:


Speech is one of the main ways in which we communicate with those around us. It develops naturally, along with other signs of normal growth and development.

Disfluencies are disorders in which a person repeats a sound, word, or phrase. Stuttering may be the most serious disfluency.

Articulation disorders may have no clear cause. They may also occur in other family members. Other causes include:

Voice disorders are caused by problems when air passes from the lungs, through the vocal cords, and then through the throat, nose, mouth, and lips. A voice disorder may be due to:



Stuttering is the most common type of disfluency.

Symptoms of disfluency can include:




Exams and Tests

The following are examples of screening and evaluation tools that can help identify and diagnose speech disorders:

A hearing test may also be done to rule out hearing loss as a cause of the speech disorder.


Children may outgrow milder forms of speech disorders.

Speech therapy may help with more severe symptoms or any speech problems that do not improve.

In therapy, the therapist may teach your child how to use their tongue to create certain sounds.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Outlook depends on the cause of the disorder. Speech can often be improved with speech therapy. Early treatment is likely to have better results.

Possible Complications

Speech disorders may lead to challenges with social interactions due to difficulty communicating.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:


Hearing loss is a risk factor for speech disorders. At-risk infants should be referred to an audiologist for a hearing test. Hearing and speech therapy can then be started, if necessary.

As young children begin to speak, some disfluency is common, and most of the time, it goes away without treatment. If you place too much attention on the disfluency, a stuttering pattern may develop. If your child is stuttering, make sure to allow them to finish what they want to say, listen to what they are saying, and then respond in a calm and relaxed way. Avoid negative comments. If the stuttering continues, meet with a speech language pathologist for support.

Review Date: 2/19/2018
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.