Speech Pathology Dictionary

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In this field we use a lot of jargon, which can make it difficult to understand what reports mean for your child. So to help make interpreting things a little bit easier we’ve put together a bit of a cheat sheet of the most common terms we use within Speech Pathology.

Age Appropriate: Skills, development or errors that are considered typical for a child’s chronological age

Apraxia: A movement disorder characterised by difficulty coordinating movements in one or more part of the body

Articulation Disorder/Delay: A type of speech impairment involving difficulty physically producing a sound in isolation and/or speech

Assessment: The evaluation of a person’s strengths, weaknesses and needs

Associative Play: The stage of play development, emerging around 3 years of age, in which children will interact with others while playing together, but do not tend to coordinate or organise their play activities with others

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): an umbrella term encompassing the range of communication systems and modalities used in place of or addition to spoken language (e.g. sign language, Picture Exchange Communication System, Proloquo2go, etc.)

Auslan: The sign language of the Australian Deaf Community

Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS): Also known as Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia. A speech disorder involving difficulty coordinating speech movements resulting in speech sound errors

Cleft Palate: A complete or partial gap in the midline of the palate cause by failure of the maxillary bones to meet and fuse together during foetal development

Communication: The exchange of information between people

Cooperative Play: The stage of play development, emerging around the age of four, in which children will engage together in shared play experienced. Play activities are organised and children take on assigned roles or functions

Delay: Development following the expected pattern or sequence, but behind the stage expected for their chronological age, level of schooling or other measure

Diagnosis: The identification of the classification or nature of an issue or disorder

Disfluency: Interruption to the smooth rhythm and flow of speech

Disorder: A disruption in typical development and/or functioning

Expressive Language: The ability to use spoken language or another form of communication (e.g. sign language, augmentative and alternative communication, etc.) to express information to others

Expressive Language Disorder/Delay: Difficulty developing and using expressive language skills

Fluency: The rhythm and flow of speech

Glue Ear: See Otitis Media

Hypernasality: Nasal sounding speech, often described as sounding like a person is talking through their nose. Caused by incomplete closure of the space between the oral cavity and nasal cavity

Hyponasality: Inability to produce nasal sounds (e.g. ‘m’, ‘n’ and ‘ng’), caused by closure or blockage of the space between the oral cavity and nasal cavity. Most commonly occurs during common colds when sinuses are blocked

Impairment: An abnormal function or structure

Intelligibility: How well a person can be understood by others

International Phonetic Alphabet: The system of symbols used to denote each specific sound observed in speech. Used by Speech Pathologists to record exact pronunciation used

Intonation: The natural rise and fall of pitch during speech

Key Word Sign: A language therapy approach using sign language to sign only the key words of a sentence

Language: The ability to understand and use spoken, written and other forms of communication (e.g. sign language, AAC, etc.)

Language Disorder/Delay: Difficulty with receptive and/or expressive language

Lisp: Specific speech sound errors involving the ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds. An Interdental Lisp involves the protrusion of the tongue between the teeth during the production of ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds, resulting in a ‘th’ sound. A Lateral Lisp involves the flattening of the tongue during the production of ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds, resulting in what is often described as a “slushy” sounding ‘s’ or ‘z’

Literacy: The ability to read and write

Makaton: See Key Word Sign

Morphology: The alteration of or addition to words to change meaning (e.g. adding -ed to a verb to indicate past tense)

Neologisms: The production of strings of non-words, which has no meaning to the speaker or listener. Often described as sounding “like another language”

Oral Apraxia: Also known as oral-motor apraxia or oromotor apraxia. A movement disorder involving difficulty coordinating mouth movements. May or may not co-occur with Childhood Apraxia of Speech

Oromotor: Also known as oral motor. The structures within the oral cavity and their movement

Oromotor Exercises: Also known as oral motor exercises. Movements and exercises intended to strengthen oral structures and/or improve oral movements. Current evidence suggests that non-speech oromotor exercises do not improve speech.

Otitis Media: Three types of inflammatory middle ear infections resulting in excessive fluid build-up in the middle ear. Acute Otitis Media (AOM) involves an acute bacterial infection, lasts less than 6 weeks and has observable symptoms such as ear pain, protruding ear drum, fever, burst eardrum, etc. Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media (CSOM) involves the same set of criteria as AOM, except lasting or more than three months. Otitis Media with Effusion (OME) is the occurance of fluid build-up in the middle ear without the presence of symptoms, and usually occurs after a bought of AOM.

Paediatric Speech Pathologist: An allied health professional who provides assessment, intervention and advocacy for children experiencing communication and feeding difficulties

Paralanguage Skills: Skills related to language, including gestures, body language, facial expression, volume, intonation and pitch

Parallel Play: The stage of play development that emerges at around two and a half years of age, in which children will play alongside peers, but do not yet attempt to engage them in play

Phonological Awareness: An important pre-literacy skills involving knowledge of the phonological (sound) structures and patterns of words and spoken language. Phonological awareness skills include breaking a word into individual sounds, breaking a word into syllables, identifying rhyme, producing rhyming words, etc.

Phonological Disorder/Delay: A type of speech impairment involving patterns of sound errors, where there no physical difficulty producing the sound. May involve the persistence of a typically occurring phonological process beyond the age at which it should be eliminated.

Phonological Process: A pattern of speech sound errors that occur during typically developing speech. Different phonological processes will resolve at different ages, as children’s speech coordination improves

Play Skills: The set of skills developed through engagement in fun and recreational activities

Pragmatics: See Social Skills

Pre-linguistic Skills: Skills developed before the emergence of spoken language, including interest and attention to people, cause and effect, intent to communicate, anticipation and imitation

Receptive Language: The ability to understand what is said to you

Receptive Language Disorder/Delay: Difficulty developing and using receptive language skills

Screener Assessment: A brief assessment used to identify if further assessment or investigation is required

Selective Mutism: Mutism that occurs under certain conditions, when normal communication development exists in at least one other context.

Semantics: The meaning of words and phrases

Severity: The degree to which a person experiences a deficit or impairment (e.g. within normal limits, mild, mild to moderate, moderate, moderate to severe and severe)

Sign Language: A type of language encompassing a number of signed languages around the world that involve expression via hand gestures.

Social Skills: The set of skills that facilitate interest in and interaction between people

Solitary Play: The stage of play development from birth until around two years of age, in which a child tends to play alone and engages in limited interaction with peers and adults during play

Specific Language Impairment: A receptive and expressive language disorder with no known cause or additional impairments

Spectator Play: The stage of play development that emerges around two years of age, in which a child shows interest in watching others play, but does not yet attempt to engage them in play

Speech: The use of and ability to form sounds for the purpose of communicating

Speech Pathologist: An allied health professional who provides assessment, intervention and advocacy for children and adults experiencing communication and feeding difficulties. See also Paediatric Speech Pathologist

Stuttering: The involuntary interruption in the flow and rhythm of spoken communication

Syntax: The grammatical rules of language, that dictate sentence formation

Therapy: Treatment for a particular difficulty

Vocabulary: The number of words a person understands (receptive vocabulary) and can use (expressive vocabulary)

Voice: The ability to use the vocal folds and breathing to create sound.

Is there a word we’ve missed, or one that you’d like us to add? Let us know via the Contact Us page and we’ll be sure to cover it.