Are they just being lazy?

When children (and sometimes adults) have difficulty speaking, people often ask if they are just being lazy. It does look like laziness – after all, in articulation practice, they can say 250 /l/ words correctly in a row, yet they keep using the wrong sound in conversation. It’s so frustrating! If only they’d try harder!

But changing your speech is actually very difficult. Try saying a word with an /s/, but change the /s/ to an /l/. It’s not too difficult, is it? Now try counting to 10, and do the same switch. Could you do it? Was it easy? Most people forget to change the /s/ sound at the end of “six,” even though they concentrate and slow down their speech. (Karen Stroszka Denby, SLP).

Speaking while thinking about how you produce sounds is “like climbing a mountain with a 100 pound pack on your back compared to no pack. Those that have to climb with the pack may look lazy, because it takes so much more effort.” (Debbie Schantz, SLP).

Having difficulty speaking sometimes means that you have to repeat everything constantly so that people can understand you. If it were easier to get it right the first time, they would! (Cat Wood, SLP).

Speech difficulties are not an issue of laziness, but of the way the brain processes speech sounds, coordinates the movements for speech, and develops automatic abilities. Automatic abilities seem effortless – so for an adult with no speech difficulties, speaking seems like a very easy task. But changing your speech is going against an automatic default system.

Here is more information about articulation and stuttering, what to do when you don’t understand a child’s speech, some suggestions for practice and integrating movement into speech practice.

I hope this article 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.

 

 

 

Movement Can Help

Some children learn more easily if they move. Sometimes, sitting at a table and naming cards or playing a board game is not the best way to work on speech or language. Here are some ways to integrate movement into working on speech or language:

  • Get your child to jump  – each time they jump, they say a word or sentence.
  • If they are playing on a slide, get them to say a word or sentence before going up the stairs.
  • If they are on a swing, face them and catch them once every few swings. Get them to say a word or sentence before you let them go.
  • If they enjoy throwing things, have a container with balls (or even scrunched up paper) that they can throw into a basket. Get them to say a word or sentence before giving them a ball.
  • Get them to say a word or sentence, and each time they do they get to do a movement. This is more fun if you make some movement cards and mix them up. Movement cards could be things like “Jump 3 times.” “Walk to the wall and back.” “Touch the floor.” This also works with yoga cards.

I hope this article 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.

Working on Articulation

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.
  • 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.

Here is more information about what to do when you don’t understand a child’s speech, some suggestions for practice and integrating movement into speech practice.

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!

Speaking Clearly

I just saw a little boy who was delayed starting to talk. Now he is communicating a lot, but he is still having difficulty with sounds and he seems to be saying only one or two words at a time because he has difficulty making himself understood if he says more. Some things that will help him to keep improving his communication are:

  • Talk to him as often as possible. Talk slowly and clearly.
  • Turn off anything that makes noise so he hears you more clearly.
  • Get down to his eye level so he gets more visual and auditory information about how to produce the speech sounds.
  • Talking in front of a mirror may be fun, too!
  • Repeat everything he says, but with the correct sounds. Repeat it slowly.
  • If he says something correctly, add a bit to it. If he says “man,” you can say “Hi, man! Bye, man!” Try to put together words that you  have heard him say correctly.
  • Sometimes he will repeat what you say and keep repeating it as long as you do. This is excellent practice for him sequencing sounds. Keep him going as long as you can!

The most important thing is to have fun, so that he keeps enjoying talking!

I hope this article 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.

When you don’t understand a child’s speech

Some children are so difficult to understand that even their parents have trouble understanding them. They may ask “What can I do when I don’t understand my child’s speech?”

It may help to ask your child to repeat what they said. You can say “I didn’t understand. Tell me again, please.” This gives you another chance to hear the message. If you understood part of it the first time, you can repeat the part that you understood to your child and pause for them to continue. If you did not understand a single word the first time, you can still ask for a repetition. Watch your child carefully to catch any gestures or facial expressions that may give you clues to help figure out what they mean. If you still do not understand, ask your child to show you. They can take you to something to support their communication, or draw or gesture part of the message to help you understand. Having pictures of some of the things your child often talks about may also help.

Some children have unusual ways of making themselves understood. One little boy I know cannot name some objects, but he can say all of his colours. His parents encourage him to tell them the colour of the object he is asking for! Encourage your child to use whatever they can to tell you their message. Tell other people they spend time with what works for them. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a chart saying what the child says or does, what it means, and how you should respond to it.

Once you do understand, always repeat the message slowly and clearly, so that they hear the correct way of saying it. Don’t ask children to repeat your correction – just model it for them to hear. Most children find it frustrating to be constantly asked to repeat.

It is important for children to have lots of success communicating. It may be helpful to play with toys selected to make what they say more obvious. For example, puzzles with one picture per piece make it easier to figure out what a child is saying. Songs, nursery rhymes and simple books can also provide a chance to speak without the pressure of making a message understood. To encourage your child to sing along, sing slowly and use lots of gestures. To encourage a child to participate in a familiar nursery rhyme or book, you can stop every so often and let them say the next word.

Children do get easier and easier to understand with time, but if you understand less than 50% of what they say by age 2, 75% by age 3 or 100% by age 4 (although they may still make some errors with later-developing sounds such as “s”. “r” or “th”), please consider consulting a Speech-Language Pathologist.

If you live in or near Winnipeg, Manitoba, we at SpeechWorks Inc. would be happy to help! SpeechWorks Inc.  provides services in English and French for children and adults to help with speech, language, swallowing and memory.