Are you having trouble understanding what your child is saying? Does s/he frequently say, “wabbit” instead of “rabbit”? Does s/he say, “bub” instead of “bus” frequently?
Then, your child may have an articulation disorder.
Most children exhibit at least one consistent error pattern in speech. It is what speech therapists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) refer to as the phonological process.
It is common for children to replace or substitute sounds. They should grow out of them by the time they are 5 to 6 years old. If your child continues to mispronounce common words, then s/he may require speech therapy.
What Are The Common Articulation Problems That Speech Therapy Exercises Address?
Children often replace one sound with another. You may hear your child say, "wun" in place of "run" or "foon" instead of "spoon." It is one of the most common articulation problems in children.
Some children omit or leave out sounds. For example, they may say "nana" instead of "banana," "unny" in place of "bunny" or "pane" instead of "plane."
Children may say the word almost correctly but include distortions. The word may sound similar to how it should, since the child may incorporate error sounds like s, l, and r in the word. For example, your child may say "shlip" in place of "ship."
Additions or epenthesis is when the child adds a sound within the word. Your child may be adding a sound between two consonants. For example, s/he may be saying “bu-lue” instead of “blue.”
How Can You Help Your Child Overcome Articulation Disorder at Home?
Articulation disorder in children can be successfully treated with speech therapy. The duration of therapy depends upon the nature of a child's misarticulations. The speech-language pathologist (SLP) you choose to consult will give you a list of words your child needs to master. They will also provide you with sets of speech therapy exercises that you can practice at home with your child.
Here are a few things you can do at home to help your child overcome their articulation disorder.
1. Practice the Targeted Sounds
The SLP will give you a list of different sounds that your child needs to work on. They will update or change the list every couple of weeks. You can help your child practice these sounds for 5 to 10 minutes every day to help them overcome the articulation disorder.
You can incorporate activities like memory match, coloring pages, scavenger hunts, word searches, and picture/photo matching in your daily practice. If your child is interested in apps and games, download different apps that target articulation in children.
2. Request Correction
Remember to use gentle requests for correcting pronunciations while you are having a conversation with your child. Do not force them if they seem agitated, frustrated, or unwilling.
Only focus on the sounds that the SLP is targeting during the week’s speech therapy practice for articulation disorder.
Before reminding them to correct their articulation, do not forget to praise your child’s correct articulations and efforts!
3. Read to Your Child
Reading may be one of the oldest yet most effective ways to introduce your child to correct articulations. Choose simple, short stories with small words for bedtime. Make sure you know the correct pronunciation of each word before you read it to your child.
Emphasize the sounds that your child is currently working on during speech therapy. If your child is a reader, praise their efforts, and encourage them to read a couple of lines out loud at least once per day.
Here is a list of books we recommend for children of all ages. If your child is attending speech therapy for fluency and speech sound disorders, these books might inspire them.
4. Include the Target Sound
When talking to your child or playing with them, try to include the target sound in your dialog. Model the sound in your speech. For example, if the target sound of the week is /g/, try to include words like "dog," "fog," "hug," "jug," "mug," and "rug" in sentences.
Make stories up as you go. For example, "The doG drank water out of the juG and fell asleep on the ruG." Enunciate the final G sound in your speech. Encourage your child to make up silly stories that include the target sounds as well.
5. Describe the Articulation Process
If your child is old enough to understand how we produce sounds using our lips, teeth, and tongue, you can try saying something along the lines of, "that was such a good try. The next time we say /p/, let's try to put our lips together.
Touch your own lips while saying words like “pop,” “pulp,” or “pup” to help your child mimic the movements of your articulators.
A Word to the Parents
Try this at home only if you have already spoken to your child's speech-language pathologist (SLP) . You may need to learn a little more about the articulation process before you can implement various speech therapy exercises at home to help a child struggling with articulation problems
While practicing with your child, remind them that what they have to say is important to you. You want to understand them each time they speak. Don’t miss an opportunity to praise their correct pronunciation and correct them only a few times throughout the day.
How to Practice Speech Therapy Exercises for Articulation Disorder at Home with Your Child?
When you are practicing the articulation or speech therapy exercises with your child, you must have a working knowledge of the process of articulation therapy. The SLP will teach the target sounds to your child. Nonetheless, you can consult the SLP and continue practicing the target sounds as described below.
1. In Isolation
You can practice the target sound at home with your child. Begin by practicing the target sounds in isolation. That means uttering the sound by itself without adding vowels or consonants.
For example, if they are working on the sound /p/, try saying /p/ multiple times in a row without adding vowels to it like "op" or "pa."
If you are unsure about the correct nature of the target sound, refer to a Speech Sound Development chart or consult your child's SLP. Always teach your child the precise way to articulate and pronounce a word.
2. Add Syllables
You can practice the target sounds by adding syllables to them. There are different ways to do this. You can add the syllable before or after the sound, or sandwich it between two syllables.
For example, you can add a syllable before the /p/ sound to say "op." Or, you can add a syllable after the /p/ sound to say "pa." Or, you can add a syllable on each side of the /p/ sound to say something like "apa."
Practice the target sound(s) with all forms of vowel variations before you begin practicing words that contain these sounds like “top” or “pat.”
3. Practice Words
You can select a list of words. Or you can request the SLP to pick out a set of words that contain the target sound. If you are picking the list of words for home speech therapy exercise, determine the position of the target sound in the word.
Choose a target sound that your child produced with the most accuracy at the syllable level. When did your child articulate the target sound more accurately? Was it when it was in the initial, medial or final position of the syllable?
Let's say your child articulated the target sound correctly more than 85% of the time when it was in the initial position. So, choose a word that begins with the target sound. For example, the target sound is /p/, so select a word like "pen" or "pot" that has the /p/ sound at the beginning.
Practice this target sound at the beginning of words, sentences, and stories before switching positions and adding vowels before it.
4. Construct Sentences
Make speech therapy for articulation disorder fun for your child. Make up funny and interesting sentences using the target words.
It's always less stressful for the parent to begin with carrier phrases or sentences. These are rotating sentences where the sentence stays the same, only the word changes.
For example, you may say, "Papa made the peas in a pan" or "Papa made the peas in a pot."
When you see that your child can articulate the target words correctly 80% of the time, it's time to move to stories.
5. Tell Stories
Select a story that features the target sound frequently. Read it aloud with your child. Keep reading the story till your child articulates the target sound correctly 80% of the time.
After that, encourage them to retell the tale in their own words. Encourage their imagination and let them create alternate endings for their favorite characters.
Once they master articulating the target sound in almost all the positions, move on to the conversation.
6. Hold a Conversation
Holding a conversation will take time, practice, and creativity. Try to steer the discussion, so it contains the target words and sounds they have already practiced.
During the conversation ask a few questions and encourage your child to share voluntarily. Correct inaccurate articulations during the chat with polite requests.
Once your child has mastered the articulation of the target sound in a conversation as well, it's time for you to observe as your child uses the target sounds in everyday contexts and conversations. If they face difficulties in doing so, you may revisit practicing words, sentences, and stories using the target sound once again.
Remember, children can overcome articulation disorder with the daily revision of successful words, reading and conversing. Spend quality time with your child and try not to imitate their mistakes. Speak clearly and pronounce all words correctly for them to model.