Speech Articulation

Articulation refers to the actual speech sounds that make up words (i.e. "s, l, r"..), as well as how the sounds are put together to produce syllables, words, and sentences.

Sometimes a child does not make speech sounds correctly due to incorrect placement or movement of the articulators (tongue, jaw, lips, velum).  There are many possible reasons why a child could be making incorrect sounds for his/her age.  When children have multiple/chronic ear infections as an infant/toddler, this puts them at risk for developing a speech sound delay.  A child may have a hearing impairment, weak muscles, or even a structural problem (i.e. cleft palate) contributing to the articulation errors.  For some children, the cause may be related to general developmental delay, delayed cognitive development, genetic "predisposition", bad speech habits, or even unknown.  These factors are common causes of speech problems, but not an exhaustive list.  The above problems can co-occur as well.  Thus, a thorough examination by a licensed professional is recommended if you suspect your child to have any articulation errors.

Talking Tips: Help your child to speak clearly by:

1. Use your best listening skills!! Really try to focus on what the child is telling you, not how it is said. It is ok to ignore the mistakes. To improve, your child needs practice! Thus, frequently correcting, teasing, laughing, may cause your child to speak less. It is important to keep your child confidant about his/her speaking skills.
2. Use your best speech (when talking with your child). Repeat your child's message correctly when they do make errors. (ie. "wewe de gog" - "where's the dog?-he's outside"). children learn by listening. They don't need to repeat it directly after you. Just provide a good model for them to hear and imitate. Speak slowly.
3. Your child may not say all sounds correctly at first, and that is okay! It can take up to 8 years for all children to speak correctly in a typically developing child. Thus, some errors are to be expected. See the developmental norms for speech development.
4. Let your child know when you don't understand them, don't just "pretend" to understand. Ask them to show you what they mean, or tell you again. Admit that you don't understand. If you understood part of it, let your child know ("Oh, your talking about the dog", "what about him?").
5. Monitor for ear infections, and have them treated immediately. When a child gets an ear infection, they may get a temporary, partial hearing loss. This will cause them to not hear all the sounds around them, and in speech which is critical for good speech development (you have to hear it correctly to imitate it!). Thus, if your child has an ear infection, speak clearly, in short and simple sentences. Make sure they are looking at you when you are speaking, and minimize background noise (such as TV or radio).

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How to Help Your Child Learn to Talk Better In Everyday Activities
How to Help Your Child Learn to Talk Better In Everyday Activities

There’s help for children who have delayed or disordered speech or language development, apraxia of speech and other articulation difficulties, and other issues that slow down this developmental process. Parents and others can help a toddler, preschooler, or older child speak better and develop language skills by using specific techniques. This eBook provides clear explanations, information, and lots of examples.

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