Dictionary of Terms


Articulation disorder:  Is a disorder in the production of speech sounds.  Not all speech errors however are articulation errors.  Consult a speech-language pathologist with questions.

Asperger’s Syndrome:  Part of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (or pervasive developmental disorders),  Asperger’s Syndrome is  a developmental disorder that affects the ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others. Children with Asperger’s syndrome typically exhibit social awkwardness and often demonstrate a high interest toward certain topics or objects.  While Asperger’s Syndrome is a life long diagnosis, treatment can help your child learn how to interact more successfully in social situations.

ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association):  ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for  audiologists, speech-language pathologists, speech, language, and hearing scientists, audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel, and students.  ASHA.org is a wonderful public resource for information on speech-language and hearing information.

Audiologist: Professionals that specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids.  They are also key in the diagnosis of Central Auditory Processing Disorders.

Auditory Processing Disorders/Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD):  Problems in the central nervous system in using auditory information.   Factors such as memory, attention, or language cannot be the root difficulty.  The deficits in each of these areas often look similar.  To avoid confusing CAPD with other disorders that can affect a person’s ability to attend, understand, and remember, it is important to emphasize that CAPD is an auditory deficit that is not the result of other higher-order cognitive, language, or related disorder.  Only an audiologist can make this diagnosis.  Here is a good article explaining CAPD and differential diagnosis:

Autism:  Is a developmental disability that causes difficulty with social skills, communication, and reacting to the world around them. Symptoms may include*:

  • Communication
  • Not speaking or very limited speech
  • Loss of words the child was previously able to say
  • Difficulty expressing basic wants and needs
  • Poor vocabulary development
  • Problems following directions or finding objects that are named
  • Repeating what is said (echolalia)
  • Problems answering questions
  • Speech that sounds different (e.g., “robotic” speech or speech that is high-pitched)
  • Social Skills
  • Poor eye contact with people or objects
  • Poor play skills (pretend or social play)
  • Being overly focused on a topic or objects that interest them
  • Problems making friends
  • Crying, becoming angry, giggling, or laughing for no known reason or at the wrong time
  • Disliking being touched or held
  • Reacting to the World Around Them
  • Rocking, hand flapping or other movements (self-stimulating movements)
  • Not paying attention to things the child sees or hears
  • Problems dealing with changes in routine>
  • Using objects in unusual ways
  • Unusual attachments to objects
  • No fear of real dangers
  • Being either very sensitive or not sensitive enough to touch, light, or sounds (e.g., disliking loud sounds or only responding when sounds are very loud; also called a sensory integration disorder)
  • Feeding difficulties (accepting only select foods, refusing certain food textures)
  • Sleep problems

(*List and more resources found on ASHA.org)

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS):  Motor speech disorder causing children to have difficulty coordinating the movements necessary to say sounds, syllables or words.   It does NOT involve muscle weakness.

Dysarthria:  A motor speech disorder result from weak muscles.  May result in slow, slurred sounding speech.

IEP (Individual Educational Plan):   A legal document that defines a child’s special education program. It includes the disability under which the child qualifies for Special Education Services, the services the team has determined the school will provide, yearly goals and objectives and any accommodations that must be provided to assist learning. It should be developed by a team, which is required to include:  an administrator, a general education teacher, a special education provider, and parent. It should be noted that an IEP is required to be done annually be can be reopened at any time by the request of the parent or any other team member.

Expressive Language disorder:  A disorder that impacts the language output.  With Expressive language disorders, comprehension is better than the expressive language.  Children with expressive language disorders may be able to follow multi step directions, but be unable to name basic body parts or be unable to find words or use sentence structures they need to express their ideas efficiently.

MET(Multi-disciplinary Educational Team):  An evaluation that  is conducted by educational specialists with knowledge in the area of your child’s suspected disability. These may include teachers, school psychologists, speech therapists, and school social workers, etc. The MET team will review important information such as school records, academic test results, medical history and information you may share about your child. Once the evaluation is finished, a written report with an eligibility recommendation is presented to the Individualized Educational Planning Team (IEP) meeting where parents are in attendance.

MLU (Mean Length of Utterance):  The average number of morphemes (meaningful units of speech) a child uses per utterance.  Normal development expects an MLU approximately equivalent to the child’s age. (So, if the child is 3 years old, you would expect an MLU of around 3).

Morpheme:  smallest unit of meaningful speech.  Prefixes like “un”, suffixes like “ed”, “s”….  The sentence:  “I see the dogs” has 4 words and 5 morphemes—dogs has 2 morphemes because the plural “s” holds meaning.

Morphology:  word structure

MSHA (Michigan Speech-Language and Hearing Association):  Michigan’s professional organization for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologist.  Their website is: Michiganspeechhearing.org

Phoneme: The smallest unit of sound in a language.

Phonological Processes:  Phonological processes are the patterns that young children use to simplify adult speech. Some examples of phonological processes are final consonant deletion (deleting final consonants), and fronting (substituting /t/ for /k/ and /d/ for /g/).  Phonological processes are normal part of speech development to a point but children should out grow them.  If you have questions about what patterns are normal for your child’s age check with a speech-language pathologist

Phonology:  The sounds of a langugage

Pragmatic Language:  the social use of language.  It involves using language for a variety of purposes, being flexible with the way in which one uses language,  and being able to use and read verbal and non verbal signals.

Receptive Language Disorder:  Difficulty with the comprehension of language.  This ranges from difficulty understanding big concepts to comprehending small nuances in language and directions or having difficulty organizing large amount of verbal information at one time.

Semantics: Word meaning. Vocabulary.

Speech-Language Pathologist:  A Professional who identifies, assesses, and treats speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders.

Stuttering: a disorder that affects the fluency of speech, characterized by disruptions in the production of speech sounds, also called “disfluencies.” Stuttered speech often includes repetitions of words or parts of words, as well as prolongations of speech sounds. These disfluencies occur more often in people who stutter than they do in the general population. Stuttering can also cause speech to become completely stopped or blocked at times. Fore more information seewestutter.org

Syntax:  the grammatical structure of language.