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What Are the Different Types of Speech Disorders?

April S. Kenyon
April S. Kenyon

Many types of speech disorders have either physical or psychological causes. They often involve leaving out, adding, distorting, or substituting sounds. Some of the most common include stuttering, cluttering, dysarthria, voice and speech sound disorders, apraxia, and muteness. Speech sound disorders are much more common in children than in adults.

Stutterers constantly and involuntarily interrupt their flow of speech, prolong vowel sounds, repeat other sounds, and make unnaturally long pauses. Its cause is unknown, but many stutterers exhibit low self-esteem, nervousness, or an aversion to producing certain speech sounds. Cluttering is similar, but it is more of a language disorder than a speech disorder. The person speaks so rapidly that it is difficult to comprehend what is said, transposes sounds, and makes mistakes in both grammar and vocabulary.

Stuttering is one of the most common speech disorders.
Stuttering is one of the most common speech disorders.

Lisping is another form of speech disorder. Interdental lisping is most common, such as pronouncing the words "sink" and "think" alike. There is also the lateral lisp, or "slushy s," and the palatal lisp in which the speaker tries to produce sounds with the tongue on the palate.

Dysarthria is characterized by weakness of the speech muscles. It is often due to brain or nerve damage caused by a stroke, cerebral palsy, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In extreme cases, air does not pass the vocal chords, prohibiting the formation of sound.

Improperly developed speech organs could lead to a speech disorder.
Improperly developed speech organs could lead to a speech disorder.

Muteness and abnormal speech patterns can also be caused by neurological disorders. In some cases, the area of the brain that controls speech may be malformed or speech organs may have developed improperly. Muteness may also be the result of trauma. Many persons with autism also do not speak or display abnormal speech patterns, such as answering "yes" by repeating the question.

There are also many less common speech disorders. Among them are Parkinson's speech, essential tremor, palilalia, spasmodic dysphonia, selective mutism, and social anxiety. One of the rarest of all speech disorders is dysprosody, or pseudo-foreign dialect syndrome. The speaker with this disorder has difficulty with pitch and timing.

Treatment for speech disorders depends upon the cause. If it is psychological, the patient should be taught how to overcome the mental state that is responsible for the disorder. A speech therapist might be able to help with the problem. If the cause is physical, treatment may involve nerve or brain surgery. In either case, medicine may be prescribed.

Discussion Comments


It's funny how speech disorders are hilarious when they're portrayed in fiction, as opposed to reality, where they are no laughing matter. After all, who doesn't find Porky Pig and his stammering to be hilarious? And who doesn't love Sylvester's "sufferin succotash" lisps? In my opinion, the reason why speech disorders are funny when in fiction is due to the characterizations.

Most of time, we don't expect fiction to be taken seriously, and we just go with the flow. The ways in which speech disorders are portrayed can almost be seen as over-the-top and amusing in nature. However, there's that fine line between what's real and what's not, and the reality of one's speech problem is no laughing matter.


From my personal experience, I find it funny how people generally won't understand the problem (speech disorder in this case) unless they have it themselves. In other words, they won't sympathize with you, and may even assume you have a mental disorder. They may get impatient if you don't speak up, not even realizing that you're trying to get a word out. It's sad, but very true.

For example, my son had a stutter problem when he was around 8 years old. Thankfully though, we saw a speech therapist, and he soon got rid of his problem. During his time as a stutterer however, he was constantly teased and made fun of by other students. One day, he even came home to me crying, because his teacher had been very rude to him, criticizing him for his inability to speak up in class.


Has anyone here ever seen a movie called The King's Speech? To make a long story short, it revolves around King George VI, and his massive stuttering problem. Being the king and all, he obviously has to give a lot of speeches and make many announcements. However, his speech disorder is always holding him back. It's as if he's a prisoner in his own body. For example, at the very beginning of the film, he has to give a public speech to millions of people. Unfortunately, he messes up, and starts stammering, over and over again. I don't have any speech disorders, but even that scene was hard to watch. You can really feel his pain and anguish.


I don't have any speech disorders myself, but from looking at others, I can imagine that it must be very difficult. I have a friend named Antonio who had a stuttering problem. He told me that his speech disorder never went away completely, and that he still messes up on his words sometimes. However, to be honest, I've never noticed his flaws.

In my opinion, I think the reason why I didn't notice that he had a speech problem was because he's my friend. In fact, I find it funny how when you're close to someone, you don't notice the flaws that they have. You just accept them for who they are.


My son developed a lisp when he was very young, and our school system didn't have a speech therapist on staff. We ended up hiring a private speech therapist, but the results were well worth her fees. He said the sessions were pretty intense, but he learned how to slow down and form his words more distinctly. The lisping was more or less a mechanical problem, so the therapist worked with him until he relearned how to make a clean S sound. I highly recommend that parents do whatever it takes to get their children into speech therapy if they need it.

When I was a child, I had a speech disorder. I couldn't pronounce "Rs" correctly. If the word was "race" or "rubber", I would pronounce it with a W sound: "wace" or "wubber". If the word contained a hard R sound, like "hard" or "card", then I would pronounce it as an "er": "herd" or "cerd". It was really embarrassing, because I sounded like the cartoon character Elmer Fudd and all the kids in my class knew it.

Fortunately, I had a really good speech therapist who managed to solve the problem in about a year.

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    • Stuttering is one of the most common speech disorders.
      By: sakura
      Stuttering is one of the most common speech disorders.
    • Improperly developed speech organs could lead to a speech disorder.
      By: stockshoppe
      Improperly developed speech organs could lead to a speech disorder.