Phonological Case Study

The author of the case study is Sophie Latanowski, who is a speech and language therapist.  The case study is entitled “Speech therapy case study of a 3-year-old girl with a developmental speech sound delay.”  The case study was written April 21, 2012.  There is no date associated to when the study was conducted.

In the case study, the child showed signs of speech sound disorder, and more specifically, phonological disorder.  Phonological disorder, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), usually involves errors such as substituting sounds made in the back of the mouth like “k” and “g” for sounds made in the front of the mouth like “t” and “d.”  The child in the case study, however, had this issue reversed.  She had trouble making the “t” and “d” sounds and instead replaced them with “k” and “g” sounds, so “letter” becomes “lekker.”  Also, the child showed difficulties with other early developing sounds such as with the “f” sound, produced with a long flow of air which was, in the child’s case, cut short and instead producing the “p” sound (“fish” was “pish”).

The supporting points of the case study were that the processes in which the child was having difficulty were uncommon and not typically found in developing speech.  The processes were outside the “normal error” for the age of three.  As a result of that assessment, the child was directed to speech therapy.  In speech therapy, a step plan of sorts was used to help the child develop correct production of the aforementioned speech sounds and processes.  First, focus was placed on auditory bombardment where the child was provided with opportunities to hear the correct pronunciation of the speech sounds.  She was also given picture cards with cued articulation for the sounds, as well as tasks to discriminate between a target sound and what she typically replaced that sound with to ensure she could tell them apart (Sidney, 2012, April 21).  Then, therapy focused on production in which diagrams and games used to help the child practice producing her new, correct sounds.  Practice with producing these sounds evolved from isolated sounds, to the sounds combined with a vowel, then variations between sounds at the beginning, end, and middle of a word.  Finally, the speech sounds were used in sentences.  Ultimately the child showed progress and success via weekly sessions.

Speech sound and phonological disorders may manifest itself in the classroom in a variety of ways.  Children may show an inability to produce the correct sounds in language learning, such as learning the alphabet in a preschool setting or learning “sight” or “snap” words in kindergarten, first, and second grades.  Sometimes speech may be partly or completely incomprehensible.  Often a parent may assume their child is “babbling” beyond the typical age but can still understand the child, whereas people outside of the immediate family may not be able to understand the child’s babbling somewhat or at all.  For school aged children, academic problems in spelling and reading may also be indicative of a phonological disorder, as children may not be able to discern correct sound-to-letter associations when producing, writing, or reading words.  Another possible red flag may be a child who is “less willing to participate or play in classroom activities” due to sounding different from their peers and finding themselves frustrated and/or ridiculed as a result (Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, n.d.).

As a teacher, the first step I would take is to coordinate with the school’s speech-language pathologist to develop an IEP for the child.  Of course, effort to intervene the issue should also take place within the classroom in addition to any speech and language services.  Within the classroom, it is important to build upon the pathologist’s teachings of how to place the tongue, form the lips, and so on by giving the student ample opportunity to practice and use those skills.  These practices may include repetition of difficult sounds and emphasis on contrasts between phonemes.  It is important to take note of the phonological context, coarticulation, and assimilation of the sounds the child is struggling with in order to discern whether the child has a deep-rooted cause to her disorder that may need other, more diligent therapy.  These steps are important in recognizing the need for therapy, assessing and determining the severity of a disorder, providing the therapy, and assessing the child’s progress.

The steps for detecting a phonological disorder in a child, as well as the therapy used on the child in the case study, both entail phonology in reading methods with a learning view.  The basic phonology teaching sequence can be applied to a phonological disorder.  First, phonological and phonemic awareness should be taught.  This is “the ability to identify the phonemes in a word and manipulate them in various ways, such as adding a phoneme, deleting a phoneme, or substituting one phoneme for another” (Freeman, 2014).  Emphasizing the correct usage of phonemes was crucial in the case study child’s therapy.

 

References

Freeman, D. E., & Freeman, Y. S. (2014). Essential linguistics: What teachers need to know to teach ESL, reading, spelling, grammar (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Phonological disorder (n.d.). Encyclopedia of mental disorders. Retrieved from http://www.minddisorders.com/Ob-Ps/Phonological-disorder.html

Sidney, S. (2012, April 21). Speech therapy case study. Children’s Therapies. Retrieved from http://www.childrenstherapies.co.uk/speech-therapy-case-study

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