2. New School Phonology

We argue that the early diagnosis of SLI around first grade masks the identification of learning disabilities. LD cases “.. are buried in the SLP caseload in the speech and language impairment (SLI) category. A significant portion of SLI pupils morph into LD children. The underlying pathology for the two categories is the same, a genetically-based cognitive-linguistic processing disorder (Speech genes).”

The label “articulation problem” or “artic problem’ is a large factor in the misidentification of language and learning disability problems.


“Artic problem” has been the bread and butter evaluation category for 100 years. It is identified with the SLP role, or the “speech therapist” role. Educators have studied it in their Introduction to Special Education courses. Teachers make preliminary articulation diagnoses when they refer children to special education. Teachers expect SLPs to work on articulation and expect therapy to continue until all sounds are corrected. Low-intelligibility children are harder to teach.

The problem is that most school articulation problems are symptomatic of language and learning disabilities. They are indicative of linguistic processing problems that show up later as literacy issues. Hence, the articulation label masks the problems that evolve into academic problems. Interfaces are lost through over-particularization. We can no longer see the underlying issues because we are dwelling on “surface phenomena.” “Phonology is an abstract system, serving perception and production equally, and supporting the expression of meaningful sentences, whether written, spoken or read” (Panagos, 2007).

The articulation label is not the only problem contributing to misidentification. Psychologists make great use of quantitative test results without much regard to the description of cognitive-linguistic problems. They have followed the discrepancy model. Herein lies the fact that interfaces with underlying cognitive linguistic processing issues are lost. Over-particularization precludes inferences about language and “articulation problems.” Hence, misidentification of LD is partly a data problem. What data are used to label and qualify?

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