Dyslalia: Characteristics, Types, and Treatments

20 February, 2021
Dyslalia is a disorder related to communication and, more specifically, to language. This article details its characteristics, types, and treatments.

Dyslalia is associated with inadequate language development in childhood. It occurs when children over the age of four have difficulty in articulating themselves. However, there’s no abnormality in their nervous system to explain it. What are the characteristics of this disorder? Furthermore, what types are there and what treatments are available?

Language acquisition is a fundamental part of the development of our higher psychological activities. In other words, those particular skills that characterize us as a species. Those skills that, in the future, will enable us to solve complex problems, do mental calculations, organize our daily life, and exchange ideas with other human beings, amongst other things.

Language

We need language so we can communicate in a complex, abstract, and accurate way. We also tend to communicate in very different registers. These registers vary from culture to culture and from generation to generation. Consequently, a language disorder means we won’t be able to effectively share and learn information.

One of the most common ways we convey knowledge and express language is through speech. Dyslalia is one of the most common speech development problems.

A teacher and a child.

The characteristics of dyslalia

The term dyslalia comes from the Greek dys which means “difficulty” and lalia which means “speech”. Indeed, dyslalia is a disorder that affects a child’s ability to speak. It occurs when a child can’t adequately articulate phonemes. The DSM-V currently classifies it as a Speech Sound Disorder. When it occurs, the child struggles to pronounce even the smallest phonological unit.

Types of dyslalia

Language therapist Raul Agudo mentions four types of dyslalia. Of course, language is an activity in which there are several systems that are manipulated and, thus, interpreted. Consequently, all of these systems must be taken into account for the different types of this disorder to be classified properly.

Evolutionary dyslalia

We can’t consider evolutionary dyslalia a pathology as such. This is because, as the name implies, the child’s language skills are still developing. Therefore, they’ll inevitably make some mistakes. These are, of course, perfectly normal. However, we can use this type of dyslalia as a starting point for the prevention of future language disorders.

Therapists such as Alba Jiménez and Alma Acuña agree that this type of dyslalia lasts from zero to three-four years of age. However, at these ages, we expect the child’s nervous system to still have to undergo some modifications. Therefore, authors like Raúl Aguado don’t tend to classify it as a proper language disorder at this stage.

Audiogenic dyslalia

Language is a multisystem skill. This type of dyslalia involves one of these systems, the auditory system. For this system to operate, the organs that make it up need to function correctly. Therefore, to either confirm or rule out any malfunction in this particular region, we need specialized tests.

If a child doesn’t hear properly, they won’t be able to pronounce phonemes correctly. This in itself is classified as dyslalia. Thus, in the case of audiogenic dyslalia, we should focus all our attention on solving any hearing problems the child has. 

Organic dyslalia

The third type of dyslalia is associated with the organs of the body that are involved with the correct pronunciation of phonemes. This isn’t a development or auditory problem. Instead, it’s the result of a defect or malformation in the parts of the body involved in speech.

The most commonly affected areas are the lips, palate, tongue, and teeth. These are the four zones we use in phonematic articulation. The most common problems in organic dyslalia are deformation in the palate, lingual frenulum, or dental malformations.

Functional dyslalia

In the previous category, an organic malformation is involved. However, in this particular type, the organs involved in the speech process don’t function properly. The organs appear perfectly normal though, so they’re expected to behave normally. However, the child’s unable to properly pronounce phonemes. This is the fourth type of dyslalia.

A teacher and a child.

Treatment

Treatment varies according to the type of dyslalia presented. As we already mentioned, professionals in each relevant field should treat the first three types. In fact, psychology is only really relevant for treating functional dyslalia. However, we can give psychological support as a form of additional treatment for the other types.

Unfortunately, intervention often depends on the approach the professional specializes in. Needless to say, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll always be the best treatment. However, there are several courses of treatment available. These range from muscular exercises in the phonetic apparatus to psychological treatments.

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