If you’ve ever heard your child say a word in a way that sounded strange, or notice they have difficulty pronouncing some words correctly, they may benefit from articulation therapy. Articulation therapy is a type of speech therapy that helps children learn to properly pronounce the sounds in words. Articulation disorders are different from phonological disorders (i.e., assimilation speech therapy, fronting, etc.). But they often fall under the umbrella term "speech sound disorder". In this post, we’ll define articulation, what articulation speech therapy is, and how it can help your child improve their speech. We’ll also provide some tips for helping your child practice their pronunciation at home.
In this article we will discuss:
What is Articulation Therapy?
Articulation therapy is a type of speech therapy that helps children learn to pronounce the sounds in words correctly. The therapist will work with your child on producing the specific sounds they are having difficulty with. They will also help them learn how to correctly place their tongue and lips when making certain sounds. Speech sound therapy can be beneficial for children who have difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, such as s, z, sh, ch, j, th, or r.
Articulation in speech is the way in which we produce sounds when speaking. There are three main aspects of articulation:
The way we use our breath to produce sound (respiration)
The way we use our vocal cords to produce sound (phonation)
The way we resonate the sound produced by our vocal cords (resonance)
The way we use our mouth, tongue, and teeth to produce sound (articulation)
When we produce speech sounds, air from our lungs is forced through our vocal cords. The vocal cords vibrate, producing sound waves. We then shape the sound waves with our mouth, tongue, and teeth to produce the specific sounds we want to make. Articulation refers to the way we use our mouth, tongue, and teeth to produce speech sounds.
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Sound Development Chart
Each sound develops differently. The following sound development chart shows the approximate age range when children typically produce each sound correctly. Based on this speech sound development chart, each speech sound develops at a different time because the muscles your child needs to produce each sound are different. For example, the muscle groups needed to produce a /p/ sound are different than the muscle groups needed to produce an /m/ sound. This is why some sounds may develop earlier than others. But for example, k sound speech therapy might be necessary if it is still not being produced by four years of age.
Some children may have difficulty producing certain sounds even after the age when most children have mastered those sounds. If your child is still having difficulty producing certain sounds after the age when most children have mastered those sounds, they may benefit from articulation therapy. A speech evaluation can give you a definitive answer. Speech therapy evaluations are often done before treatment even begins.
What is a Speech Impairment
A speech impairment is any problem that affects a person’s ability to speak. It can make it difficult for a person to articulate words correctly or to be understood by others. There are many different types of speech impairments, including:
Developmental speech impairments: These are speech impairments that a child is born with or that develop early in life. Developmental speech impairments can be caused by hearing loss, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, or other conditions (i.e., the need for tongue tie speech therapy).
Acquired speech impairments: These are speech impairments that develop later in life, usually as a result of an injury or illness. Acquired speech impairments can be caused by a stroke, brain injury, cancer, or other conditions.
Articulation disorders: These are problems with the way the mouth, tongue, and teeth are used to produce speech sounds (i.e., tongue thrust). Articulation disorders can make it difficult for a person to be understood by others.
Fluency disorders: These are problems with the flow of speech. Fluency disorders can cause a person to stutter or have difficulty speaking in a smooth, flowing manner.
Voice disorders: These are problems with the pitch, volume, or quality of the voice. Voice disorders can make it difficult for a person to be heard by others.
What is Articulation Disorder?
Articulation errors are errors in the articulations of speech production. These errors are common in children, as they start learning how to speak. This is a normal part of learning different speech sounds. Most children outgrow these speech errors. However, other children who have persistent speech errors may need help from a speech-language pathologist to get an articulation screening (i.e., consistent /s/ blend errors, such as "swed" for "sled").
These articulation errors include: When one sound is replaced with another, this is known as substitution. Instead of using the correct sound, a mistake or an easier option is utilized. For example, a youngster could say “I saw a little wamb” or “I saw a tiny wombat.”
When a sound is left out that is too difficult to pronounce, it’s termed omission. Sounds in words and sentences may be entirely omitted. For example, a kid might say “I go coo o the buh” for “I go to school on the bus,” or “I ree a boo” for “I read a book.” Or the /l/sound in speech therapy may result in "cue" for "clue".
Distortions occur when sounds are modified slightly so that the intended sound may be recognized but sounds “wrong” or does not sound like any sound in the language. The lisp in speech therapy, for example, is the best-known example of distortion. For example, an /s/ sound might whistle through the teeth and produce a “slushy” sound, or a /t/ sound might be produced by hitting the tongue against the teeth. There is also something known as a "tongue thrust" that can cause distortions due to the tongue being pressed too far forward. Tongue thrust speech therapy also known as myofunctional speech therapy, focuses on correcting the tongue's position.
When children add an extra sound within a word, it’s known as additions. For example, they may say “buhlue” for blue or “fuhlower” for flower.
Articulation disorder can affect a child’s reading skills.
Poor readers often have difficulty with some of the same sounds that are difficult for children with articulation disorders. This is because they may not be able to hear the differences in the sounds when they see them in print. If your child has an articulation disorder, you may notice that they:
Have difficulty being understood by others
Avoid saying certain words or sounds
Substitute easier words or sounds for harder ones
Add extra sounds to words
Leave sounds out of words
Say words differently from how they are pronounced
Speech-language therapy can help children with articulation disorders. The therapist will work with your child on making the correct sound and using it in words, phrases, and sentences.
How Can Articulation Therapy Help My Child?
If your child is having difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, articulation therapy can help. The therapist will work with your child on producing the specific sounds they are having trouble with. They will also help them to learn how to correctly place their tongue and lips when making certain sounds. This can help your child to be better understood by others and improve their confidence when speaking.
During Articulation Therapy, the Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) will:
Assess your child’s speech sound production to determine which sounds are not being produced correctly.
Teach your child how to make the specific sounds they are having trouble with.
Provide drills and practice activities for your child to do at home.
Give you tips on how you can help your child with their speech sound production.
Monitor your child’s progress and adjust the therapy goals as needed.
Overview of What is Articulation Therapy
Children begin at the syllable level and progress to connected speech. The following is a detailed explanation of each stage.
Syllables/Isolation: First and foremost, the target sound must be able to be articulated. Because all future speech requirements are eliminated, the syllable level is often the first stage. If you’re practicing /b/, start with “ba” or “ab.” Once your child can produce sounds in syllables, it’s time to advance to the word level.
Words: Next, say the target sound within words. Practice saying “ball,” “able,” and “tub” in the context of our /b/ example. It’s critical to practice speaking the sound in terms of beginning (initial), middle (medial), and end (position) since the tongue, teeth, jaws, lips, and vocal cords must synchronize and move muscles differently based on where the sound is placed inside a word. If a child is receiving /r/ sound speech therapy, there are a few different types of /r/ sounds to look at, such as prevocalic /r/ (i.e., red) and postvocalic /r/ (i.e., car, stir, after, etc.) The phrase level follows after that.
Sentences: The sounds must be practiced within sentences. “I see a ball,” for example. This stage might be tough since the brain must learn how to say the sound while also handling all of those additional speech and language demands. We’re establishing good speech habits!
Conversation: This is the final stage, and where home practice matters most. During a conversation, a kid must correctly pronounce the target sound. For this one, I recommend short, controlled exercises!
Tell your child, for example, “We’re going to practice /s/ while we play this game. When we speak, we must use our excellent /s/ sound. If we hear each other say /s/ incorrectly, we’ll have to start over.” You can also use this time to provide positive reinforcement. “I heard you use your /s/ sound perfectly. Great job!”
If you think your child might benefit from articulation therapy, contact a speech-language pathologist in your area.Here are some tips for helping your child practice their pronunciation at home:
Encourage your child to read aloud on a daily basis. This can help them to practice the correct pronunciation of words. By letting them hear the correct production of sounds, they can begin to imitate what they hear.
Play games with your child that involve saying words aloud, such as charades, Hangman, and Scrabble. This can be a fun way for them to practice their articulation skills.
Listen to your child carefully and provide feedback on their speech. Give them specific praise when they produce the correct sound and gently correct them when they do not.
Make sure that you are modeling correct pronunciation for your child. Have your child practice saying words that begin with the sound they are working on.
Encourage your child to use pictures or objects to help them remember how to say certain words correctly. For example, if they are having trouble with the word “ball,” you can have them draw a picture of a ball or get a real ball to help them remember the correct production of the /b/ sound.
Practice, practice, practice! The more your child practices their articulation, the better their skills will become. Try to make it a fun and positive experience for them so that they are more likely to want to do it!
Make sure your child is receiving regular articulation therapy sessions from a certified speech therapist.
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About the Author
I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.
I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.