Purpose: To undertake a community (nonclinical) study to describe the speech of preschool children who had been identified by parents/teachers as having difficulties "talking and making speech sounds" and compare the speech characteristics of those who had and had not accessed the services of a speech-language pathologist (SLP). Method: Stage 1: Parent/teacher concern regarding the speech skills of 1,097 4- to 5-year-old children attending early childhood centers was documented. Stage 2a: One hundred forty-three children who had been identified with concerns were assessed. Stage 2b: Parents returned questionnaires about service access for 109 children. Results: The majority of the 143 children (86.7%) achieved a standard score below the normal range for the percentage of consonants correct (PCC) on the Diagnostic Evaluation of Articulation and Phonology (Dodd, Hua, Crosbie, Holm, & Ozanne, 2002). Consonants produced incorrectly were consistent with the late-8 phonemes (Shriberg, 1993). Common phonological patterns were fricative simplification (82.5%), cluster simplification (49.0%)/reduction (19.6%), gliding (41.3%), and palatal fronting (15.4%). Interdental lisps on /s/ and /z/ were produced by 39.9% of the children, dentalization of other sibilants by 17.5%, and lateral lisps by 13.3%. Despite parent/teacher concern, only 41/109 children had contact with an SLP. These children were more likely to be unintelligible to strangers, to express distress about their speech, and to have a lower PCC and a smaller consonant inventory compared to the children who had no contact with an SLP. Conclusion: A significant number of preschool-age children with speech sound disorders (SSD) have not had contact with an SLP. These children have mild-severe SSD and would benefit from SLP intervention. Integrated SLP services within early childhood communities would enable earlier identification of SSD and access to intervention to reduce potential educational and social impacts affiliated with SSD.
- speech sound disorders
- service delivery