Speech and Language

What is the difference between speech and language?


Is making the sounds that become words. The physical act of talking. Words you might hear associated with a speech impairment: articulation, phonological processes, speech sound disorder


Our system of using words to communicate. Using words and gestures to say what we mean and understand what others say. Words you might hear associated with a language impairment: receptive language, expressive language, comprehension, verbal expression, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, social communication

Every child is different and there is a wide range of what is considered to be “within normal limits”. 

  • By age 2, most children have at least 50 words and are producing 2 word utterances.  They can recognize the names of objects, even in pictures and understand simple requests.
  • By age 3, most of their speech can be understood by people outside of their family.  
  • By age 4, children are producing longer sentences and by age 5, children should be able to carry on a conversation.
  • No consistent words by 18 months
  • 24 months– not using at least 25 words
  • 30 months– not using 2 word phrases
  • 36 months– child does not have at least a 200 word vocabulary
  • Difficulty understanding child’s speech
    Parent– 24 months
    Unfamiliar listener– 36 months
  • No interest in communication
  • Excessive drooling; problems sucking, chewing or swallowing; control and coordination of lips,tongue and jaw

Speech and Language Disorders

Speech sound disorders is an umbrella term referring to any difficulty or combination of difficulties with perception, motor production or phonological representation of speech sounds.  Can be organic or functional in nature.  Organic disorders are resulting from an underlying cause.  Functional disorders are idiopathic and have no known cause.

・ Organic disorders

dysarthria and apraxia (neurological), cleft palate (structural) and hearing impairment (sensory).

・ Functional disorders

articulation (motor) and phonology (linguistic).

・ Articulation impairment

focus on errors when producing individual speech sounds. Errors include substitutions, omissions, distortions and additions.

・ Phonological impairment

focus on predictable, rule based errors. Common processes used include fronting, stopping, consonant blend reduction and final consonant deletion.

・ Receptive language impairment

difficulty understanding what others are saying.

・ Expressive language impairment

difficulty expressing thoughts and ideas.

・ Mixed receptive/expressive impairment

difficulty understanding and using spoken language.

Modeling language at home and in the classroom

This is not just for speech and language delayed students.  These strategies are effective for all students and for providing a language-rich environment.  Model the expressive language that you would like your students to develop, rather than correcting or instructing to say certain words, etc.  If you want a student who expresses himself using 2 word utterances to expand to 4 words, model 4 word utterances.  If you are looking for clearer speech, model slow, clear and over-articulated speech.  If you want to teach how to express emotions, model positive coping strategies.  Remember– with every interaction, you are teaching your children about communication.

4 types of modeling:
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    expanding a child’s utterance by repeating what they say with more detailed language or more grammatically correct language. EX) Daddy go’ed. You-- “Yes, Daddy went to work! Bye Dad!”

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    Self talk

    narrating your actions to provide a correct model of expressive language. Talk about anything and everything you are doing to provide as many models of language as possible. Helps students learn labels of items in their environment, to use varying sentence structure and to use functional language that may help them when they are upset. EX) “I am putting peas on Jack’s red plate.” “I can’t find my keys. I’m feeling mad. I’m going to take a deep breath and ask mom to help me.”

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    Parallel talk

    narrating your child’s actions throughout any activity. Narrate what the student is doing, seeing, hearing, eating, feeling, etc. EX) “You’re coloring with the red crayon. You made a big red fire truck.” “You are eating the banana. Yummy banana!”

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    Focused stimulation

    providing repeated models of a specific vocabulary word you would like your student to learn. Repeat at least 10 times within one activity. EX) “The baby is hungry. He loves to EAT. He wants to EAT the banana. He is EATING all of his food. Does he want to EAT the apple? EAT the apple baby.”

These types of modeling can also be used to teach emotional regulation and social communication skills.  Provide students with tons of praise for any and all verbal language.

Modeling articulation at home and in the classroom

Depending on the extent of difficulty, unclear speech can significantly impact how well a child interacts with adults and peers and can affect the development of language and social skills.  Articulation is also important in literacy skills.

  • Play: model sounds when playing EX) cow, train, sheep, etc.
  • Talk: model slow and clear speech, reduce background noise when talking with students.
  • Look: look at student and encourage student to look at you
  • Read: read to students
  • Listen and respond: actively listen to student and respond to all verbalizations
  • Repeat: repeat student’s utterance using correct articulation.  EX) “Dat my deen tar.”  “Yes, that is your green car.”
  • Show: ask for one repetition and try to have a guess. Ask student to show you if possible.  Don’t be afraid of saying that you do not understand.

Note on correcting

If sounds / words are produced incorrectly, model the correct production back to them, but there is no need to have them try to say it again correctly. EX) “Look at that tat.” “Yes, it’s a cute cat.” Continue with conversation. This will serve as a subtle and positive correction.