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Speech and language disorders

Speech and language disorders can affect your ability to talk, understand, read, and write.

A speech disorder is a problem with one or more of the following:

  • The flow or rhythm of speech – For instance, a person might hesitate a lot while speaking or repeat sounds or words. Stuttering is a speech disorder that falls into this category.
  • The way sounds are formed or strung together – Speaking with a lisp (using "th" for the "s" sound) is an example.
  • The voice – For instance, the voice may be too loud, or it may be hoarse due to damage to the vocal cords.

A language disorder is a problem using or understanding spoken or written words or symbols (such as with sign language). For instance, if you have had an injury to a part of the brain that controls language, you may have trouble finding the words to express an idea. This is like having a word "on the tip of your tongue."

Children may develop speech or language disorders due to conditions that affect brain development before, during, or after birth. Adults may develop speech or language disorders due to stroke, traumatic brain injury, or brain tumors.

People with speech or language disorders can be helped by speech-language pathologists. People who cannot speak at all might benefit from using speech generating devices. These devices allow you to press letters or pictures and the devices produce speech for you.

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More information on Speech and language disorders

Explore other publications and websites

  • Aphasia - This fact sheet provides information and resources on aphasia, including a description, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and research.
  • Auditory Processing Disorder in Children - This fact sheet explains auditory processing disorder, the difficulties in diagnosing it, possible symptoms, treatments available, and the research being conducted.
  • Speech and Language Impairments - This fact sheet on speech and language disorders in children and youth offers information on the characteristics, education, and implications of these disorders. It contains a helpful list of resources that can provide more information.
  • Speech for Patients With Tracheostomies or Ventilators (Copyright © American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) - This publication discusses some of the problems with speech that patients with tracheostomies or ventilators may have. It also discusses how to cope with or overcome these challenges.
  • Stuttering - This brochure explains how speech is normally produced, who stutters, and how stuttering is diagnosed and treated. It also provides a short explanation of research being conducted on stuttering and lists resources for more information.
  • Using the Phone (Copyright © The Stuttering Foundation) - Using the telephone can be a stressful experience for people who stutter. this web page offers advice on how to make and receive successful phone calls and lessen the stress you may feel.
  • Voice, Speech, and Language - This site links to detailed information about specific voice, speech, and language disorders and general information on taking care of your voice.
  • Why Speech Therapy? (Copyright © The Stuttering Foundation) - This brochure lists some basic facts about stuttering and discusses why speech therapy is a great way to minimize its effect on your life. It also talks about how you can find the speech-language pathologist that is right for you.

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Content last updated September 22, 2009.

Resources last updated September 20, 2013.

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