Speech-Language Terms

Speech-Language Terms

Alternative Augmentative Communication Devices (AAC): Refers to all forms of communication, other than oral/verbal speech, used to express wants, needs, and ideas. Some people with speech & language difficulties rely on AAC devices to supplement their impaired speech, or completely replace it. Some common AAC includes: writing, facial expressions, gestures, picture and symbol boards, and electronic communication programs (i.e. Proloquo2Go Crescendo, GoTalk, TouchChat, & Speak for Yourself).

American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA): A professional organization for Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologists in the United States.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA): A systematic approach that focuses on understanding, predicting and changing human behavior. Simply speaking, ABA aims to improve socially acceptable behaviors and/or decrease unwanted behaviors by demonstrating a reliable relationship between procedures and behavioral improvement.

Apraxia or Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS): A motor speech disorder in which children’s brains have difficulty coordinating to move body parts (e.g. jaw, lips, tongue) necessary for speech. These children have difficulty producing sounds, syllables and whole words. This is not due to muscle weakness or paralysis.

Articulation Disorder: Involves problems making specific sounds or phonemes. Sounds can be substituted, distorted, or omitted (i.e. a child may have difficulty producing the /k/ sound).

Auditory Processing Disorder: An auditory disorder in which the brain has difficulty processing spoken language. It effects a child’s ability to process verbal instructions, questions, or even filter out background noise in a classroom. Must be diagnosed by an Audiologist.

Auditory Discrimination: Involves the ability to differentiate among phonemes (individual sounds) heard. This an important classroom skill for reading, writing, spelling and following directions. Often a targeted skill in treatment of articulation disorders.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (includes Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) & Asperger’s Syndrome): An umbrella term that groups together complex developmental disorders effecting social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.

Cleft Lip & Palate: A cleft happens when parts of the lip and mouth do not completely come together (fuse) in-utero, leaving a hole in the roof of the mouth (cleft palate) and/or a split in the upper lip (cleft lip). This occurs in the 2nd – 3rd months of pregnancy, and can occur on one side of the mouth (unilaterally) or on both sides of the mouth (bilaterally).

Dyslexia: Difficulty in learning to read or interpret letters, words, or other symbols.

Expressive Language: The use of words, sentences, gestures or writing to convey one’s wants and needs.

Hypertonia: Refers to increased muscle tone and lack of flexibility. Children with hypertonia have stiff, inflexible movements. For example, some children exhibit a tight, retracted bite or smile at rest. Properly eating and articulation of sounds can be difficult for these children as they have limited range of motion.

Hypotonia: Refers to decreased muscle tone and too much flexibility. Children with hypotonia have floppy or “jelly-like” movements. For example, some children demonstrate weak tongue, lip, and jaw strength, resulting in imprecise articulation.

Language-Based Learning Difficulties (LBLD): Refers to the range of learning difficulties affected by a child’s use and understanding of spoken and written language. Academic areas affected include reading, writing, spelling, verbal expression, and listening. (i.e. Dyslexia)

Lisp: Refers to a person’s difficulty producing the /s/ and /z/ sounds due to incorrect placement of the tongue. A frontal lisp occurs when the tongue sticks out between the front teeth. This error makes /s/ and /z/ sound like “th” (i.e. thom vs. some). A lateral lisp occurs when air escapes over the sides of the tongue. A lateral lisp often sounds “wet” or “slushy” because you can hear the sounds of saliva.

Oral-Motor: Refers to the use and function of the facial muscles (lips, tongue, and jaw). When a child has limited strength, movement and/or coordination of these muscles, chewing, swallowing, and articulation can be affected.

Orton-Gillingham Reading Program: A multi-sensory reading/spelling technique used for struggling readers or children with Dyslexia.

Phonemes: The smallest unit of sound in a language. There are vowel phonemes and consonant phonemes. For example, the word HAT has 3 phonemes (/h/, /a/, /t/).

Phonological Processes & Phonological Disorder: Typical speech errors children use to simply adult speech. Children use these processes while their speech and language are developing. Common phonological processes are suppressed by various ages depending on the complexity of the sound. However, if these phonological processes persist for longer than expected, the child exhibits a phonological disorder.

Phonological Awareness: The ability to manipulate or “play” with sounds and words. This skill is essential for the development of good reading skills.

Pragmatic Language: The rules of social language that we use in our daily interactions with others. This includes eye contact, body language, tone, and appropriateness.

PROMPT Therapy: The acronym for Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets. This technique is a tactile-kinesthetic approach in which a clinician uses their fingers outside of the mouth (touch cues) to manually guide a patient’s articulators (jaw, tongue, lips) to produce a targeted word, phrase or sentences. This technique has shown significant benefits toward improving articulation disorders and apraxia of speech.

Receptive Language: The ability to interpret and understand language heard or read.

Selective Mutism: A child’s inability to speak in select social situations (e.g a child may speak at home, but not in school or to non-family members).

Speech & Language Delays: Refers to a speech and language developmental milestone that is not reached by an expected age range.

Speech Intelligibility: Refers a person’s speech clarity. It is degree (poor, fair, good, excellent) or percentage of a person’s speech that is clear (intelligible) to a listener.

Speech Language Pathologist (SLP): A trained professional who evaluates and treats children and/or adult with speech and language difficulties. Many SLPs specialize areas of expertise (i.e. articulation and language, swallowing, stuttering) and age groups (infants, school-age, adults).

Speech Language Pathology: The scientific study of human communication and its disorders which affect speech, language, swallowing and/or cognitive functioning.

Stutter: A fluency disorder in which the flow of speech is disrupted by involuntary “disfluencies”. These disfluencies can come in the form of repetitions or prolongations (of sounds, syllables, words, or phrases), filler words (i.e. uh, um), pauses or blocks. Many young children go through a period of stuttering during early language development.

Word Finding: Refers to the ability to retrieve names of objects, people, numbers, letters, or other familiar information.