Lots of young children have difficulty with speech sounds. The most difficult sounds to produce are /s/, /z/, /sh/, /ch/, /j/, /r/ and /l/. These sounds often take longer to develop, and can make it hard to understand some children. Imagine how frustrating this is for the child and the person they are talking to! Here are some things that may help:
- Slow down your own speech, so that your child slows down too. This may help them to place their tongue and lips in the correct position, or it may just give you more time to figure out what they are saying.
- Face them and place yourself at their level physically to allow them to see the mouth movements you are making, and eventually to produce them.
- Do activities that support your ability to understand your child’s speech – where the context makes it easier to figure out what they say. For example, look at a book with one big picture on each page with your child.
- If you do not understand what they just said, ask them to repeat, slow down or show you. Sometimes it helps to ask them to say it a different way.
- If you understand part of what they just said, repeat the part that you understood.
- If you understand what they just said, repeat it correctly.
- Practice any sounds that your Speech-Language Pathologist suggests daily. Practice them for a short period of time. Sometimes it helps to practice easier sounds such as /t/, /d/, /n/ or /l/ in order to get a more precise position for the tongue – this will help to develop more difficult sounds such as /s/ and /z/.
- In general, you will practice sounds in isolation, then in syllables, then in words, then in sentences, and finally in conversation, but this will vary according to your child’s difficulties and what the Speech-Language Pathologist suggests for your child.
- Practicing in front of a mirror makes it easier to see the movements required to produce the target sound.
- Make it fun. If you can, integrate drill into games so that your child keeps wanting to practice. Working on speech may be a long-term commitment. Keeping your child interested and motivated is important.
I hope this post was helpful! If you have concerns about your child’s speech or language, please contact a Speech-Language Pathologist. If you live in or near Winnipeg, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help. Good luck!