Some children have difficulty producing one specific speech sound, others struggle with a group of sounds. Some children have difficulty coordinating the movements of their tongue and lips. The extent of your child’s difficulties will impact their intelligibility (how well they are understood by others). Too many unsuccessful interactions may impact your child’s motivation, confidence and engagement with others. By not taking any action, your child may start avoiding social interactions and withdrawing from social situations e.g. not putting their hand up in class.
What can you do to help?
10 top tips for at-home speech sound practice:
React to what your child has said and not how they say it. Children may not know that they are mispronouncing a word.
Repeat the word back to your child so they can hear the correct way of saying it. This will provide your child with an opportunity to hear the correct pronunciation and also show your child that you have understood them. For example: 1/ child: ‘look a fider’ and then 2/ adult: ‘that’s right it’s a spider’.
Slightly emphasise and stress the correct pronunciation of the word.
Gently encourage your child to look at you when you are talking to them. You could use a mirror to talk to your child about the lips, teeth and tongue positions and shape when you say the tricky sound.
Use clear speech at a steady rate when talking to your child so they hear models of speech sounds throughout the whole day.
Give praise for clear speech. For example: ‘that’s right, you said ‘spider’ very well’.
Get down to your child’s level and make sure you have eye contact before you model a difficult word.
If you need to prompt give a choice between your child's error and the correct version. For example: 1/ child: ‘a fog’ and then 2/ adult: ‘is it a fog or a frog?’.
If your child is missing out and dropping sounds at the end of the word, then teaching them about rhyming really helps. Model to your child pairs and groups of words that rhyme, e.g. dog and frog. You can ask your child to show you a ‘thumbs up’ if the sequence of words rhyme and ‘thumbs down’ if the sequence does not rhyme. For example ‘chair and bottle’. Tell your child that we're going to focus on the final sound of the word - what sound did they hear at the end ‘Matt, cat, bat’. "That's right's, it's "t", well done".
Some children miss out parts of a word. For example, it is very common to hear ‘nana’ for banana or ‘albery’ for strawberry. For these kind of errors, demonstrating the number of syllables and clapping them out with your child helps breaks down the different sounds in a word ‘air o plain’. Three syllables ‘let's clap out the syllables together and then say the word with all the sounds together’.
Try to avoid:
Asking your child to keep repeating the word as this can cause frustration.
Asking your child to say the word ‘properly’ as they might not recognise they're making an error.
Pretending that you have understood. If you are unsure of what your child has said then ask them to show you, encouraging them to point or gesture. You could also use close ended questions (yes or no responses). For example, are you telling me something about what happened at nursery today?
4 activities to develop awareness of speech sounds:
Find as many things as you can in the room which start with a certain sound.
Put things beginning with the target sounds in a bag. Say ‘what’s in the bag’ and say the name of each item as your child takes them out, then say the target sound.
Make a collage by cutting out pictures from a magazine of things that begin with the target sound.
Many speech errors are due to immaturities and difficulty planning and coordination of tongue and lips which have resulted into a habit. Therefore, in order to change a habit, practise needs to take place regularly (little and often) rather than once a week for a long period of time.
If you would like to understand and learn more about your child's speech sounds, feel free to contact noala for a speech sounds assessment. The dedicated speech professional will be able to share specific tips and tricks on how to correct specific speech sound errors for outlined targets.
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