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Suffolk Center for Speech


SLP’s, We Need to Talk…

Six years of school equals more than just a bunch of letters after our names…


It is obvious that becoming a speech-language pathologist enriches our minds as much as it does our hearts.


It is important to remember that while we know what we’re talking about, many parents, teachers, and other healthcare professionals do not know our lingo!

While SLP’s have lots of big words and long answers to describe the ins and outs of our field, it is important to alter our language based on our audience.

The same way we simplify explanations on-the-spot for our kids, we can alter the way we explain things to parents, teachers, and other professionals involved in the treatment and care of our clients/patients/students. 

THINK ABOUT IT:  How can a parent help their child with carryover assignments if they, themselves, don’t even understand the goals or objectives? We cannot assume that every parent is proactive enough to ask questions when they’re unsure of what we mean (and we shouldn’t leave it up to Google to give them an answer!). We should be providing explanations or descriptions for everything we are doing. We should remember that these parents, teachers, and professionals don’t all have degrees in speech-language pathology.

The following is a “dictionary” for some of the lingo we frequently use

(and infrequently explain):

Articulation: Articulation is the physical ability to move the tongue, lips, jaw, and other oral motor musculature (known as the articulators) to produce individual speech sounds, which are also called phonemes.

Articulation Delay/Disorder:  An articulation delay/disorder is when a child has not mastered age-appropriate sounds in the typical time frame. This is characterized by the child substituting, omitting, adding, or distorting speech sounds.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): Augmentative and Alternative Communication, also known as AAC, refers to “…all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write” (ASHA).

Babbling: Babbling refers to sounds and syllables an infant begins stringing together between 4-12 months of age. Babbling is referred to as a pre-linguistic skill: meaning it occurs prior to the development of speech/language.

Childhood Apraxia of Speech: CAS is a motor speech disorder. Children with CAS have difficulty producing sounds, syllables, and words due to difficulty with planning and executing the fine motor movements needed for speech. The child knows what he/she wants to say, but the brain is having difficulty coordinating the parts of the body that are used to produce these speech sounds (i.e., the vocal folds, lips, jaw, and tongue).

Choking: Choking occurs when food (or a foreign object) becomes lodged in the throat or windpipe, blocking the flow of air. Choking cuts off oxygen to the brain and consequently makes it difficult to breathe, resulting in the inability to cough and loss of consciousness.

Delay: a delay refers to development that is following the “typical or normal patterns” but is developing at a slower rate than age-matched peers.

Diastemas: Spacing between the teeth can cause difficulty producing certain speech sounds as it will allow for air to escape through the lateral portions of the oral cavity.

Dissociation: the separation of movement in two or more muscle groups based on adequate strength and stability.

Disorder: A disorder is classified as development that is NOT following the “typical or normal” patterns (i.e., abnormally).

Dysarthria: Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder resulting in weakness, paralysis, and/or incoordination in the muscles needed for producing speech (i.e., jaw, lips, tongue, palate, and respiratory system).

Dysfluency: speech with an irregular flow. Certain sounds may be improperly elongated, airflow may be interrupted, and sounds, words, or phrases may be improperly repeated.

Echolalia: a repetition of words that occur without meaning and in imitation. For example, a child might repeat a phrase they overheard. The imitation may occur immediately after the stimulus or long after.

Expansions: This is a strategy that can be used to help children learn language. Expansions are when you take the words your child says about what they see and do and repeat them while adding in missing words/grammar. By doing this, you are expanding your child’s language without directly “correcting” him/her.

Fluency: speech that flows smoothly and is clearly understood. Fluent speech is without irregularities like abnormal repetitions.

Frenum: a narrow fold of mucous membrane connecting a moveable part to a fixed part. Its purpose is to stabilize and check undue movement of that part. The lingual frenum is generally under the mid-portion of the tongue. It can help to stabilize the base of the tongue but does not interfere with tongue tip movement. With a short frenum, however, the lingual frenum may have anterior attachment near the tip of the tongue and may also be unusually short. This causes a virtual adhesion of the tongue tip to the floor of the mouth and can result in restricted tongue tip movement (Kummer, A., 2005).

Language: While speech involves the physical motor ability to talk, language is a symbolic, rule governed system used to convey a message. Language can be expressive (what we say) or receptive (what we understand).

Lisp: A lisp refers to an articulation disorder in which a child is having difficulty producing the phonemes /s/ and /z/. The most common are identified by interdental productions, or lateral air escape.

Morpheme: a morpheme is a meaningful part of language that cannot be broken down further. For example, “dog.” A bound morpheme is part of a larger word. For example, the “ing” on “singing.”

Motor Speech Disorders:  Motor speech disorders are a group of speech disorders characterized by difficulty with the motor aspects of speech. They can involve difficulty with the coordination and planning of movements needed for speech (Apraxia) or difficulties with the strength of the articulatory and respiratory system (Dysarthria).

Phonological Processes: the typical patterns of how a child simplifies his/her speech. For example, a young child will simplify the word “bottle” to something like “baba.” A young child may also say “goggie” for “doggie,” “sue” for “shoe,” or “nail” for “snail.” Phonological processes are the normal patterns of simplification all children use as they are learning to speak.

Phonological Delay/Disorder: A phonological delay refers to the prolonged use of phonological processes (sound simplifications) in a child’s speech.

Phonology: Phonology is the study of how speech sounds (phonemes) are organized and used in a language. This includes the study of the individual sounds of a language (phonemes), their patterns (processes), how they are learned (phonological development) and how they work and go together (phonation).

Pica: the persistent craving and compulsive eating of nonfood substances. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, classifies it as a feeding and eating disorder of childhood.

Pragmatic language: this is the social aspect of language that refers to the way an individual uses language to communicate. It may involve using language to communicate in different ways (like greeting others, requesting, protesting, asking questions to gain information, etc.), changing language according to the people or place it is being used (i.e., audience, setting, etc.), and following the rules for conversation (taking turns in conversation, staying on topic, using and understanding verbal and nonverbal cues, etc.).

Semantics: the meaning of words and language.

Syntax: the rules that govern how words and phrases fit together to create coherent sentences (grammar).

Speech: this refers to articulation/phonological skills, speech fluency, and voice. This looks at a child’s ability to physically produce the individual sounds and sound patterns of his/her language (articulation), produce speech with appropriate rhythm (suprasegmental features, inflection, prosody, timing, etc.), and produce fluid speech with an appropriate vocal quality.

Stuttering: a communication disorder that effects speech fluency. It is characterized by breaks in the flow of speech. Some dysfluencies are developmental (you outgrow them) but having too many can actually significantly affect one’s ability to communicate. Stuttering may include repetitions, prolongations, interjections, and blocks. Often stuttering is compounded by secondary behaviors such as tension in the neck, shoulders, face, jaw, chest, eye blinks, nose flaring, other odd facial movements, clenched fists, stomping of feet, jerking, and/or other unusual extraneous motor movements.

By creating a running document of common words, phrases, and areas of deficit, SLP’s can bridge the gap of misunderstanding, and help parents and children understand the nature of their deficits. With a greater understanding, we may achieve  better carryover of goals.

One Last Thing…

After every session try to review with your client/student/patient:

  1. Why do I come to speech?
  2. What did I learn today?
  3. How can I practice at home?



Ashley DiGregorio M.A., CF-SLP, TSSLD

by Suffolk Center for Speech | with 0 Comments

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