UB Articulation Boot Camp addresses common speech difficulties

Free screening appointments now being made for summer program

Release Date: June 3, 2015

“Articulation impairment needs to be addressed, and doing so will make a difference in a child’s life.”
Susan Felsenfeld, director, Articulation Boot Camp
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo’s Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences is now screening applicants for its Articulation Boot Camp, an intensive four-week summer program designed to help correct articulation impairment, one of the most common speech difficulties affecting children and adults.

There are separate groups for participants in grades 6-8 and 9-12. Both groups meet every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1-2:30 p.m. beginning July 6 and ending July 30.

Space is extremely limited. Screening appointments are free and can be scheduled by calling the clinic at 716-829-5575. Program tuition is $300. Scholarships are available to eligible families unable to pay the full fee. Additional information is available online at http://cdswebserver.med.buffalo.edu/drupal/?q=node/53

Articulation impairment is a speech problem that involves mispronouncing a small set of consonant sounds, including “r”, “l,” “s” and “th.”

That small group of sounds, however, can create big problems.

The “r” sound, for instance, occurs often in English, appearing in clusters or at the beginning, middle and ends of words, such as bread, red, hear, or mother.

“The ‘r’ sound is the No. 1 sound error,” says Susan Felsenfeld, clinical associate professor at UB and the Articulation Boot Camp’s director. “If someone mispronounces ‘r,’ it’s possible that every sentence they speak contains that sound, making their speech sound distorted.”

Some articulation problems can be explained because of a hearing impairment or an oral structural problem, but often none of these factors are present and the impairment’s cause remains unknown.

Up to 8 percent of children in the U.S. at some point during their school years will be diagnosed with articulation impairment. Yet there is a curious lack of awareness about this common condition, which is often incorrectly seen as a nuisance more than a true disability, Felsenfeld says.

“Articulation impairment needs to be addressed, and doing so will make a difference in a child’s life.”

But the consequences of articulation impairment can escape casual observation, especially since research shows no strong association between this particular speech problem and a child’s performance in school.

“It’s in the social realm that we begin to see its implications.”

Felsenfeld says children can be teased or bullied because of their speech, and that mistreatment is often not communicated with parents.  Even well-intentioned children might socially avoid peers with articulation impairment simply because their speech can be difficult to understand.

Parents meantime frequently accept articulation impairment as the manner in which their child speaks or something that will resolve itself but, if uncorrected, articulation impairment can continue into adulthood.

According to Felsenfeld, research suggests that potential employers rate persons with obvious sound pronunciation problems as lower in maturity and competence than others with similar qualifications on paper.

Early intervention is desirable, and though some children will self-correct, she says it’s important to understand that articulation impairment does not necessarily get better on its own. The key to success at any age is working with a specialist who understands the disorder.

With proper treatment, achieving the goal of normalized speech is 100 percent attainable in most cases.

The Articulation Boot Camp involves intensive positive practice to correct pronunciation errors. Much of the work involves repetition, in the same way an instrumentalist might practice scales or a tennis player would work on a serve. These exercises are often embedded into entertaining activities. Rather than relying only on traditional methods of instruction, the Articulation Boot Camp incorporates novel feedback and instruction methods that may not have been tried before with that participant.

The instruction is highly individualized, with each participant assigned a personal clinician. All clinicians are UB graduate students in the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences working under Felsenfeld’s direct supervision.

“It’s only a month, but it’s a month where group members will work on perfecting sounds in a way they wouldn’t get anywhere else,” says Felsenfeld.

The Articulation Boot Camp is among seven separate mini-camps offered this summer by the UB Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. In addition to the summer programs, other individual programs are available to eligible participants during most of the year.

Details on all of the department’s services are available by calling 716-829-5575 or visiting the website http://cdswebserver.med.buffalo.edu/drupal/?q=node/53

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