A communication disorder is a disease or condition in which human communication is partially or totally affected. The disability could be in talking, hearing or comprehending communication. Common communication disorders include stuttering or stammering. Occasionally, the problems could be as severe as a complete inability to use speech and language. Nearly 10% of Americans of all ages, genders, and races have or continue to have problems with communication. The problem is even more acute when children below 18 years of age are considered.
There are many a cause for these disorders and they include physical impairments – hearing loss, cleft lip or palate, developmental disorders, neurological disorders, substance abuse, and emotional or psychiatric disorders.
In its formative years, a child is involved in developing speech and language. A child uses voice to communicate feelings and thoughts to the outside world. All these could be affected in a child suffering from communication disorder.
Problems of speech include stuttering, articulation and voice disorders. Stuttering refers to the disruption in voice due to repeated speech sounds, hesitations before and after speech, and prolonged speech sounds. Articulation refers to the ways in which sounds are formed and uttered together. It is also the most common of all communication disorder. Voice is generated by the vibration of vocal cords produced by air flowing from the lungs in the larynx or voice box. Any damage to the larynx can lead to a voice disorder. Autism, Aphasia, Dyslexia, are all various forms of communication disorders.
Language related problems constitute another set of communication disorders. It is a form of deviancy in expression or comprehension of words in a context. The disorder could be in form, content, or function of the language as a communication tool. When a child’s auditory system is affected, the child will have problems in interpreting and comprehending information. As our auditory systems function in translating energy in the form of sound waves to impulses that are then interpreted by the brain, any impairment to them could result in deafness and consequent trouble in speech and articulation.
Early detection and knowledge of its symptoms is most essential in the treatment of this set of disorders. As children at a very tender age could be subject to these impairments, it is incumbent upon parents and caretakers to be observant to the child’s speech, comprehension, and reaction to what is said, and responses received. One must not hesitate to take a doctor’s help if one finds that his or her child is not showing normal patterns in speech and language development. However, for this, the critical requirement is that one must be aware of the normal patterns of language and development. Communication disorders can also stem from other conditions such as learning disabilities, dyslexia, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation.