Articulation therapy is a form of speech-language therapy, often simply called speech therapy, that focuses on how speech sounds are produced. It is a treatment used by children or adults who have difficulty in pronouncing words clearly enough to be easily understood by others. Treatment for articulation disorders is provided by a certified or licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP).
Articulation refers to the production of speech sounds. A person with an articulation disorder incorrectly articulates the distinct sounds within certain words by distorting, adding, or leaving off some of the sounds. One example of an articulation disorder is informally called a lisp, in which a person incorrectly pronounces an "s" sound as if it were a "th" sound.
Children might be diagnosed with an articulation disorder when they have trouble with certain speech sounds past the point of normal developmental speech issues. This disorder could be a complication of a developmental delay, hearing impairment, autism, birth defect or brain injury, among other possible causes. Adults might struggle with articulation problems due to medical conditions such as a stroke or head injury, or they could have unresolved speech issues from childhood. Diagnosis of an articulation disorder can require an articulation test, in which the person's speech is recorded to document sound errors. A physical examination of the face and mouth can also be done to assess the function of speech-related muscles.
Articulation therapy is a subcategory of speech-language therapy, commonly referred to as speech therapy. It can be used as a treatment to address articulation problems in children or adults. Articulation therapy is provided by SLPs with master's degrees who are nationally certified, more locally licensed, or both.
Articulation therapy can involve learning the correct way to pronounce speech sounds, understanding how to recognize when sounds are being made incorrectly, and strengthening facial muscles used in speech production. The SLP might make corrections to the individual's pronunciation. He or she might also prescribe repetitive pronunciation exercises to reinforce speech and language skills. The therapy could occur in a classroom setting, one-on-one, or in a small group. For younger children, treatment may be framed within the context of age-appropriate play activities.
For a child who is being treated with articulation therapy, at-home support by caregivers is important. An SLP will provide home exercises and strategies that the child's caregiver can use to reinforce treatment between sessions. Repeated practice of pronunciation exercises and other techniques is key to ameliorating articulation disorders.