Communication Disorders.

Any of a group of disorders characterized by difficulties with speech and language, such as expressive language disorder, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, phonological disorder, and stuttering are Communication Disorders.

Language and speech are disordered or impaired if they differ from what is considered the norm. The yardstick is embedded in the culture of each language; what may be considered disordered in one language will not necessarily be disordered in another language.

The unique nature of the communication disorders- language and speech disorders is that they are not visible since mostly they are not physically manifested, except defects that affect articulation. Most communication disorders are not evident until a person opens her/his mouth to speak. The disorders, for the same reason, are often not considered a disability, even by the persons who have them. Language and speech disorders may be due to factors such as physical, mental, or socialization defects.


Communication Disorders- Language Disorder

Language is the rule-based use of speech sounds to communicate (Sternberg, 2000). Language disorders or language impairments involve the processing of linguistic information. Problems that may be experienced can involve grammar (syntax and/or morphology), semantics (meaning), or other aspects of language.

Disordered language may be due to a receptive problem, that is, a difficulty in understanding speech sounds (involving impaired language comprehension). It can also be due to an expressive problem, that is, a difficulty in producing the speech sounds (involving language production), that follow the arbitrary rules of a specific language. A language disorder can also be due to problems in both reception and expression.

Language disorder is a disorder that is found in the development or use of the knowledge of language. It shows the breakdown in the development of language abilities on the usual developmental schedule. The disorders that come under language disorders are: Autism, Learning Disability, Specific Language Impairment, Developmental Phonological Disorders Aphasia, Dyspraxia, etc.

1. Aphasia.

Aphasia is an impairment of language functioning caused by damage to the left hemisphere of the brain. There are different type of aphasias, example; Broca’s aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia.

Wernicke’s aphasia is caused by damage to the left temporal lobe of the brain. It is characterized by notable impairment in the understanding of spoken words and sentences. People with Wernicke’s aphasia have generally fluent phonetic and syntactic but semantically coherent speech.

Broca’s aphasia is caused by damage to the brain’s premotor area, responsible, in part, for controlling motor commands used in speech production. A person suffering from Broca’s aphasia exhibits speech containing excess pauses and slips of tongue, and s/he has trouble finding words when talking. The person also fails to make use of function words such as a, the, and of. For this reason, Broca’s aphasics also produce ungrammatical sentences. Furthermore they have problem using syntactic information when understanding sentences.

2. Autism.

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by abnormalities in social behavior, language, and cognition. It is biological in its origins, although the genes responsible for it have not been conclusively identified. Children with autism are identified by around 14 months of age, when they fail to show expected normal patterns of interaction with others. They display repetitive movements and stereotyped patterns of interests and activities.

When they interact with someone, they are more likely to view their lips than their eyes. About half of children with autism fail to develop functional speech.

Children with autism show abnormalities in many areas of the brain, including the frontal and parietal lobes, as well as the cerebellum, brainstem, corpus callosum, basal ganglia, amygdala, and hippocampus.

3. Learning Disability.

Language-based learning disabilities are problems with age-appropriate reading, spelling, and/or writing. Most people diagnosed with learning disabilities have average to superior intelligence. . In language-based learning disability (or just learning disabilities), many children with reading problems have spoken language problems. Moreover, Dyslexia has been used to refer to the specific learning problem of reading.

4. Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder which leads to a decrement in language processing ability. This disease primarily afflicts elderly persons and causes progressive, diffused, and irreversible damage to the cortical regions of the brain, impacting markedly on memory functions.

Comparison between the language decrements due to the dementing effects of Alzheimer’s disease and those noted for the aphasics is useful because the average age of onset of Alzheimer’s Disease overlaps that of aphasias (around 50 to 60 years of age).

Communication Disorders- Speech Disorders.

Speech disorders are characterized by a difficulty in producing normal speech patterns. Children go through many stages of speech production while they are learning to communicate. What is normal in the speech of a child of one age may be a sign of a problem in an older child. Speech is the vocal utterance of language and it is considered disordered in three underlying ways: voice, articulation, and fluency.

These disorders include voice disorders (abnormalities in pitch, volume, vocal quality, resonance, or duration of sounds), speed sound disorders/articulation disorders (problems producing speech sounds), and fluency disorders (impairment in the normal rate or rhythm of speech, such as stuttering).

1. Voice Disorders

Voice involves the coordinated effects of the lungs, larynx, vocal chords, and nasal passage to produce recognizable sounds. It can thus be considered disordered if it is incorrectly phonated or if it is incorrectly resonated. In the incorrect phonation an individual could have a breathy, strained, husky, or hoarse voice. With the incorrect resonation an individual could have hyper-nasality or hypo-nasality. The voice disorders could also be due to improper voicing habits.

Every sound of voice has a possible range of meanings that could be conveyed simply through the voice rather than the words we use. The features that should be considered in determining a voice disorder are:
Volume: how loudly or softly we speak
Pitch: how pleasant or unpleasant
Quality: the highness or lowness of one’s voice
Rate: the speed at which one speaks

2. Speech Sound Disorders

These involve difficulty in producing specific speech sounds (most often certain consonants, such as /s/ or /r/), and are subdivided into articulation disorders (also called phonetic disorders) and phonemic disorders.

Articulation disorders are characterized by difficulty learning to physically produce sounds. Phonemic disorders are characterized by difficulty in learning the sound distinctions of a language, so that one sound may be used in place of many.

a. Articulation disorders: Articulation involves the use of the tongue, lips, teeth and mouth to produce recognizable speech sounds. Articulation is disordered if sounds are added, omitted, substituted or distorted. It may be caused by factors such as structural abnormalities, for example, a cleft lip and/or palate, a tongue-tie, missing teeth, a heavy tongue, or a deformed mouth; faulty or incomplete learning of the sound system; or damage of the nervous system.

b. Phonemic disorders: are speech disorders in which individuals have trouble physically producing certain sounds. In the general population phonemic disorders are sometimes called speech impediments. Usually individuals with phonemic disorders have trouble distinguishing the sounds made by certain letters so that some letters, for example all “t”s or all “c”s, are always pronounced with an incorrect sound as a substitution. Phonemic disorders usually improve with speech therapy, though how much improvement may be made will depend upon each individual case.

3. Fluency Disorders.

The Fluency disorder involves appropriate pauses and hesitations to keep speech sounds recognizable. Fluency is disordered if sounds are very rapid with extra sounds (cluttered), if sounds are repeated or blocked especially at the beginnings of words (stuttered), or if words are repeated.

They are more prevalent in children and they are due to a combination of familial, psychological, neurological, and motoric factors.

The social nature of communication is affected when one has disfluent speech. Human beings are social and they spend much of their time together. They first learn how to communicate in a social set up. For instance, with parents, siblings, relations, or friends. Socialization is adversely affected if one has a fluency speech disorder. However, a person with disfluency is often mishandled at home, in school, or in public place. Often the individual becomes withdrawn.


David H. Barlow, V. Mark Durand. Abnormal Psychology, An Integrative Approach. (7th ed).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *