Glossary of Speech-Language (and Related) Terminology

Accommodations - Changes in how test is administered that do not substantially alter what the test measures; includes changes in presentation format, response format, test setting or test timing. Appropriate accommodations are made to level the playing field, i.e., to provide equal opportunity to demonstrate knowledge.

Acquired - Occurring after birth.

American Sign Language (ASL) - Manual language with its own syntax and grammar, used primarily by people who are deaf.

Anoxia - A total lack of oxygen, often used interchangeably with hypoxia to mean a reduced supply of oxygen to the tissues, although there is adequate blood flow.

Aphasia - Refers to any language impairment caused by brain damamge. Aphasia is a neurological disorder caused by damage to the portions of the brain that are responsible for language. Primary signs of the disorder include difficulty in expressing oneself when speaking, trouble understanding speech, and difficulty with reading and writing.

Apraxia - A neurological disorder characterized by the inability to execute or carry out learned/familiar movements, despite having the desire and the physical ability to perform the movements. There are several types of apraxia including limb-kinetic (inability to make fine, precise movements with a limb), ideomotor (inability to carry out a motor command), ideational (inability to create a plan for or idea of a specific movement), buccofacial or facial-oral (inability to carry out facial movements on command, i.e., lick lips, whistle, cough, or wink), verbal (difficulty coordinating mouth and speech movements), constructional inability to draw or construct simple configurations), and oculomotor (difficulty moving the eyes).

Aphonia - Persistent absence of voice that is perceived as whispering..

Appeal - Procedure in which a party seeks to reverse or modify a judgment or final order of a lower court or administrative agency, usually on grounds that lower court misinterpreted or misapplied the law, rather than on the grounds that it made an incorrect finding of fact.

Articulation - Pronunciation of sounds and words.

Articulation disorder - Speech sound errors which do not change in different word contexts. These errors occur during the production of isolated speech sounds (phonemes) and are thus misarticulated at the syllable and word levels as well. Children with this disorder may have trouble controlling their rate of speech, or they may lag behind peers in learning to make speech sounds. For example, a child, at age 6 that still says "wabbit" instead of "rabbit" and "thwim" for "swim." Developmental articulation disorders are common. They appear in at least 10 percent of children younger than age 8.

Articulators - The tongue, lips, teeth and palate.

Assessment of communicative disorders - The systematic process of obtaining information from many sources, through various means, and in different settings to verify and specify communication strengths and weaknesses, identify possible causes, and make plans to address them.

Assistive Devices - Technical tools and devices such as alphabet boards, text telephones, or text-to-speech conversion software used to aid individuals who have communication disorders perform actions, tasks, and activities.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - Hyperactivity and attentional difficulties in children who do not manifest other
characteristics of learning disabilities.

Audiologist - Health care professional who is trained to evaluate hearing loss and related disorders, including balance (vestibular) disorders and tinnitus, and to rehabilitate individuals with hearing loss and related disorders. An audiologist uses a variety of tests and procedures to assess hearing and balance function and to fit and dispense hearing aids and other assistive devices for hearing.

Auditory processing - Recognition of sounds and language.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) - Anything that can improve someone's ability to communicate. This can include sign language, gestures, using a voice output communication aid to talk to a friend, pointing to pictures in a communication book to order at a restaurant, or using a computer to type and send E-mail.

Autism - Brain disorder that begins in early childhood and persists
throughout adulthood; affects three crucial areas of development:
communication, social interaction, and creative or imaginative play.

Babbling - Single-syllable nonpurposeful consonant-vowel (CV) or
vowel-consonant (VC) vocalizations that begin at about four months of age.

Balance - Biological system that enables individuals to know where their bodies are in the environment and to maintain a desired position. Normal balance depends on information from the labyrinth in the inner ear, from other senses such as sight and touch, and from muscle movement.

Balance Disorder - Disruption in the labyrinth, the inner ear organ that controls the balance system, which allows individuals to know where their bodies are in the environment. The labyrinth works with other systems in the body, such as the visual and skeletal systems, to maintain posture.

Breath Support - Efficient and appropriate use of the breath stream for phonation.

Broca's area - The area of the cortex located in the frontal lobe that is responsible for detailing and coordinating the programming for verbalizing the message. Signals are then passed to the regions of the motor cortex.

Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) - A CAPD is a receptive language disorder. It refers to difficulties in the decoding and storing of auditory information - usually incoming verbal messages. Also referred to as Auditory Processing Disorder or APD.

Central nervous system (CNS) - The brain and spinal cord.

Cerebral palsy - A motor disorder produced by damage to the brain; it usually occurs prenatally, perinatally, or in early infant life.

Cerebrum - The upper brain, which is divided into two hemispheres. The outermost layer is called the cortex.

Cleft palate - A split or opening in the lip or palate or both. There are many different types of clefts. The structural deviations associated with cleft affect speech in two major ways: First, the way your child says certain sounds may be different due to his unique mouth structure, and second, his voice may have a nasal quality if the cleft affects the soft palate or if the hard palate is unrepaired. Sometimes after surgery a child may have a small hole, or fistula, that allows air to "leak" into the nose. This usually affects speech only slightly.

Congenital - Present at birth.

Cognition - Thinking skills that include perception, memory, awareness, reasoning, judgment, intellect, and imagination.

Communication disorder - An inability to understand or use speech and language to relate to others in society. This can be divided into four areas: language, articulation, voice and stuttering.

Complaint - Legal document that outlines plaintiff's claim against a

Consent - Requirement that the parent be fully informed of all information that relates to any action that school wants to take about the child, that parent understands that consent is voluntary and may be revoked at any time.

Counseling services - Related service; includes services provided by social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors, or other qualified personnel.

Delay - The child is following the typical path of speech development, but at a slower rate than normal.

Developmental - Relating to something "in development" or "developing". A "developmental disability," therefore, refers to a disability that relates to a developing human being. For practical purposes, a "developing human being" is a child.

The United States government's definition of "developmental disability" requires that the disability be a mental and/or physical impairment, manifest before the individual is 22 years old, will likely continue indefinitely, results in substantial functional limitations in 3 or more major life activities, and will necessitate special services and supports of either lifelong or extended duration.

Speech and language disorders are not generally "developmental disabilities," in and of themselves, but can be a result of a developmental disability. Speech and language disorders, however, are sometimes labelled as "developmental apraxia of speech" or "developmental dyspraxia" in order to indicate that the disorder is one that occurs in children without a known incident of injury or illness. This does not mean to infer that these particular speech and language disorders are not caused by an injury or lillness, simply that the moment of injury/illness is typically unknown.

Disability - In Section 504 and ADA, defined as impairment that substantially affects one or more major life activities; an individual who has a record of having such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Disorder - The child does not have the same speech or language skills as other children his age. He may have some skills that are age-appropriate but is missing some that should have been learned at a younger age. He may use some sounds or word forms that are unusual and never used by any child at any age.

Down syndrome - Sometimes called "trisomy 21 syndrome," Down disorder is a congenital condition characterized by mental retardation; a small, slightly flattened skull; low-set ears; abnormal digits; and other unusual facial and body characteristics.

Due process - Hearing (impartial due process hearing). Procedure to resolve disputes between parents and schools; administrative hearing before an impartial hearing officer or administrative law judge.

Dysarthria - One of several motor speech disorders that involve impaired articulation, respiration, phonation, or prosody as a result of paralysis, muscle weakness, or poor coordination. Motor function may be excessively slow or rapid, decreased in range or strength, and have poor directionality and timing..

Dysfluency - Disruption in the smooth flow or expression of speech.

Dysgraphia - A neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities. Specifically, the disorder causes a person's writing to be distorted or incorrect. In children, the disorder generally emerges when they are first introduced to writing. They make inappropriately sized and spaced letters, or write wrong or misspelled words, despite thorough instruction. Children with the disorder may have other learning disabilities, however, they usually have no social or other academic problems.

Dyslexia - A brain-based type of learning disability that specifically impairs a person's ability to read. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. Although the disorder varies from person to person, common characteristics among people with dyslexia are difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds) and/or rapid visual-verbal responding.

Dysphagia - Difficulty in swallowing. Some children with oral apraxia have dysphagia, and need therapy to learn how to chew and swallow food.

Dyspraxia - The terms "apraxia" and "dyspraxia" are often used interchangeably, although there are subtle differences. Both terms refer to a disturbance of motor planning (praxis). Apraxia and dyspraxia refer to oral motor planning deficits. Children with oral motor planning deficits have difficulties transmitting the speech message from their brain to their mouths. While some children have had obvious brain damage (difficult birth, cerebral palsy, etc.), most of the cases of dyspraxia are of unknown origin.

Dysarthria -One of several motor speech disorders that involve impaired articulation, respiration, phonation, or prosody as a result of paralysis, muscle weakness, or poor coordination. Motor function may be excessively slow or rapid, decreased in range or strength, and have poor directionality and timing.

Early intervention (EI) - Special education and related services provided to children under age of 5.

Educational consultant/diagnostician - An individual who may be familiar with school curriculum and requirements at various grade levels: may or may not have a background in learning disabilities; may conduct educational evaluations.

Evaluation - The procedures used to determine if a child is eligible for early intervention services or to determine whether a child is qualified for special education and related services.

Expressive language - Thinking and expressing in words (speech).

Expressive language disorder - Some children have problems expressing themselves in speech. This is referred to as a developmental expressive language disorder. A child who often calls objects by the wrong names, has an expressive language disorder. An expressive language
disorder can take other forms. A 4-year-old who speaks only in two-word phrases and a 6-year-old who can't answer simple questions also have an expressive language disability.

Fluency - Smoothness of rhythm and rate in speech

Fluent - Speech that is relatively smooth and free of disruptions.

FM assistive listening device - Equipment that is used to overcome the adverse effects of background noise, distance, and poor room acoustics by amplifying certain frequencies.

Free appropriate public education (FAPE) - One of the
key requirements of the IDEA, which requires that a free education program be provided for all school-aged children; the exact requirements of "appropriate" are not defined.

Gene - The unit of heredity, composed of a sequence of DNA, that is located in a specific position on a chromosome.

Grammar - The rules of a language.

Gross Motor Skills - Activities that use large muscle groups. Examples would be running, jumping, riding bikes.

Hypotonia - Poor muscle tone & weakness.

IDEA - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (U.S.A.)

Ideopathic - Of unknown origin.

IEP - An Individual Education Plan for an exceptional pupil
outlining how the pupil's identified needs will be met. Federally mandated and must be updated annually.

Intelligibility - The ease with which an individual's speech is understood.

Jargon - In infancy, long strings of unintelligible sounds with adultlike intonation that develop at about eight months of age and exhibit the pitch and intonational pattern of the language to which the child is exposed. Jargon may sound like questions, commands, and statements. In some aphasias, jargon refers to meaningless or irrelevant speech, characterized by typical intonational patterns and frequently correct syntax.

Language - Any means of conveying or communicating ideas; specifically, human speech; the expression of ideas by the voice; sounds, expressive of thought, articulated by the organs of the throat and mouth. Language is used to communicate the thoughts of one person to another through the organs of hearing. Articulate sounds are represented to the eye by letters, marks, or characters, which form words.

Language Disorders - Any of a number of problems with verbal communication and the ability to use or understand a symbol system for communication.

Language impairment - A heterogeneous group of deficits and/or immaturities in the comprehension and/or production of spoken or written language.

Language sample - A systematic collection and analysis of a person's speech or writing. Sometimes called a corpus; used as a part of language assessment.

Larynx - Valve structure between the trachea (windpipe) and the pharynx (the upper throat) that is the primary organ of voice production.

Learning Disabilities - Disability category under IDEA; includes
disorders that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language; may manifest in difficulties with listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, and doing mathematical calculations; includes minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) - An educational setting or program that provides a student with disabilities with the chance to work and learn to the best of his or her ability; it also provides the student as much contact as possible with children without disabilities, while meeting all of the child's learning needs and physical requirements.

Lisp - Mispronunciation of the sounds /s/ and /z/.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - A system of visualizing the inside of the body without the use of X rays. The body is placed in a magnetic field and bombarded with radio waves, some of which are re-emitted and resolved by computer, which allows for viewing soft tissues and various abnormalities.

Mainstreaming - Integrating children with speech and language impairments (or other disabilities) into the "least restrictive" educational setting. This often implies placement in a regular school classroom with special educational assistance, where necessary.

Mediation - Procedural safeguard to resolve disputes between parents and schools; must be voluntary, cannot be used to deny or delay right to a due process hearing; must be conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective mediation techniques.

Medical services - Related service; includes services provided by a licensed physician to determine a child's medically related disability that results in the child's need for special education and related services.

Monotone - Voice that is produced without varying the fundamental frequency.

Motor Speech Disorders - Group of disorders caused by the inability to accurately produce speech sounds (phonemes) because of muscle weakness or incoordination or difficulty performing voluntary muscle movements.

Myelination - Development of a protective myelin sheath or sleeve around the cranial nerves.

Neurogenic Communication Disorder - Inability to exchange information with others because of hearing, speech, and/or language problems caused by impairment of the nervous system (brain or nerves).

Neurologist - A physician who specializes in disorders of the brain and nervous system.

Occupational therapy - Related service; includes therapy to remediate fine motor skills.

Ocular motor apraxia (OMA) - A visual condition where a child or adult has difficulty in controlling their horizontal eye movements.

Oral apraxia - A neurological impairment in programming and executing speech and nonspeech movements of the mouth.

Oral motor - Has to do with the movement and placement of the oral structures such as the tongue, lips, palate and teeth. Oral motor skills include the ability to lick your lips, stick out your tongue, blow bubbles, make a "kissy face", etc. Feeding skills, oral motor skills, and articulation development are all related to each other in that they develop side by side and one builds upon the other. A child with poor oral motor skills will have feeding deficits in certain areas and delays in articulation.

Oromotor incoordination - A problem with coordination of oral motor skills.

Pervasive Developmental Disorders - Disorders characterized by delays in several areas of development that may include socialization and communication.

Phonation - Production of sound by vocal fold vibration.

Phoneme - A family of speech sounds that are phonetically similar. Phonemes combine with each other to form words, phrases, and sentences.

Phonological disorder - Phonology is the sound system of language. Children who have phonological processing disorders have not learned the rules for how sounds fit together to make words, and use certain processes to simplify words. Phonological processing disorders are related to language. Children with phonological processing disorders are frequently unintelligible. These children are at a very high risk for later reading and learning disabilities.

Pragmatics - The use, function, or purpose of communication; the study of communicative acts and contexts.

Pragmatic language - Knowing how to interact appropriately.

Praxis - The ability to execute a skilled movement.

Prosody - Melody of speech.

Pull-out therapy - Removing a child from a classroom so that she or he can participate in a therapy session.

Receptive language - Hearing and understanding words.

Receptive language disorder - Trouble understanding certain aspects of speech, even though hearing is fine. It may be a toddler who doesn't respond to his name, a preschooler who hands you a bell when you asked for a ball, or the worker who consistently can't follow simple directions. They cannot make sense of certain sounds, words, or sentences they hear. They may even seem inattentive. These people have a receptive language disorder. Because using and understanding speech are strongly related, many people with receptive language disorders also have an expressive language disability. Some misuse of sounds, words, or grammar is a normal part of learning to speak for a preschooler.

Sensory integration disorder/dysfunction (DSI) - "Sensory integration, simply put, is the ability to take in information through senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing), to put it together with prior information, memories, and knowledge stored in the brain, and to make a meaningful response. Sensory integration is responsible for such things as coordination, attention, arousal levels, autonomic functioning, emotions, memory, and higher level cognitive functions. Sensory integrative dysfunction is a disorder in which sensory input is not integrated or organized appropriately in the brain and may produce varying degrees of problems in development, information processing, and behavior." (from S.I.Net - Sensory Integration Resource Network). E.g., the child may be oversensitive or undersensitive to touch, taste, smell or sight.

Speech - The ability to utter articulate sounds or words; expressing thoughts by words or articulate sounds. Speech is voice modulated by the throat, tongue, lips, etc, the modulation being accomplished by changing the form of the cavity of the mouth and nose through the action of muscles which move their walls.

Speech-Language Pathologist - Health professional trained to evaluate and treat people who have voice, speech, language, or swallowing disorders (including hearing impairment) that affect their ability to communicate.

Speech-language pathology services - Related service; includes identification and diagnosis of speech or language impairments, speech or language therapy, counseling and guidance.

Speech sample - A systematic collection and analysis of a person's speech, used in language assessment.

Stuttering - A disruption in the normal flow or rhythm of speech. Some children have difficulty combining sounds into words. They repeat or prolong the beginning sounds of many words, which is called a disfluency , because they break up the smooth flow of speech. Stuttering is speech characterized by abnormal hesitations, repetitions, and prolongations that may be accompanied by gestures, grimaces, or other bodily movements indicating a struggle to speak, blocking of speech, anxiety, or avoidance of speech. All individuals are disfluent at times, but what differentiates the person who stutters (PWS) from someone with normal speech disfluencies is the kind and amount of the disfluencies.

Tongue tie - (ankyloglossia) Results from the frenulum (the membrane under the tongue) extending further than usual towards the tip of the tongue. This limits the forward and upward mobility of the tongue. Tongue-tie may cause problems with articulation of sounds such as ‘t’, ‘d’, ‘1’, ‘th’ and ‘s’ because it restricts the ability to elevate the tongue. It may also be impossible to play a wind instrument which requires the tongue to stop the mouthpiece.

Voice - The sound produced by vibration of the vocal cords.

Voice disorder - Abnormal vocal pitch, loudness, quality or resonance. Voice disorders are characterized by inappropriate pitch (too high, too low, never changing or interrupted by breaks); loudness (too loud or not loud enough); or quality (harsh, hoarse, breathy or nasal).


Does My Child Have a Speech Problem?
Does My Child Have a Speech Problem
by Katherine L. Martin