Phonological Processes: What is Deaffrication?

[In this series, we explore the major phonological processes that children use in speech, as well as strategies for targeting them at home]

What are Phonological Processes?

A phonological process is a pattern that young children adapt to simplify adult speech sounds. All children use these processes at some point in time while their speech and language skills are still developing because they don’t have to ability to coordinate the articulators -- lips, tongue, teeth, etc. -- for clear, “adult-like” speech. Due to this developmental process, children will simplify words in predictable ways until they develop the skills required to produce them clearly. A familiar example of this might be a 2-year-old child saying “wa-wa” for “water” or “nana” for “banana”.


Today we will explore the process of deaffrication. Deaffrication is a pattern of substitution where an affricate, like “ch” or “j”, is replaced with a fricative or stop like “sh” or "d." If you’ve ever heard a child say “ships” for “chips”, then you’ve heard deaffrication in conversation.

Similar to other phonological processes, deaffrication is typical for young children. This process typically resolves by the age of 4. However, it may be considered a phonological disorder after this age.

During speech therapy, it can be easiest to use a “minimal pairs” approach to target deaffrication. In this strategy, children repeat two words that differ by only one sound, typically the target sound and the corresponding processed sound. In this case, the word list could be focused on “ch” and “sh” minimal pairs, such as “CHIP” and “SHIP.” Another effective strategy can be auditory discrimination, or the ability to accurately distinguish sounds. Asking children to determine if a word includes the “ch” or “j” sounds is a great way to promote carefully listening, which can lead to correct production.

Have more questions about deaffrication or other phonological processes? Reach out to a Sidekick therapist or one of our offices today.

Elizabeth Ward, M.S., CF-SLP


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