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9 Tips on How to Help a Child with Speech Articulation Problems

9 Tips on How to Help a Child with Speech Articulation Problems

Speech articulation problems occur when sounds are not pronounced correctly. This can happen due to issues with the placement, timing, pressure, speed, or flow of movement of the lips, tongue, teeth, palate, or respiratory system (lungs).

Many parents wonder how to help a child with speech articulation problems. If you’ve noticed your child struggling to pronounce sounds clearly, you’re not alone. Here are some tips on how best to help our little ones develop clearer speech.

1. Understand speech articulation problems

Before we learn how to help a child with speech articulation problems, it’s crucial to understand these issues first. That way, we can tailor our approach to the unique needs and abilities of our children on the spectrum.

Common causes for speech articulation problems in autistic children include:

  • Motor coordination issues may cause difficulties with precise speech articulation.  
  • Sensory issues may lead to avoidance or difficulty in forming specific sounds.  
  • Language processing issues make it challenging to understand and replicate speech patterns accurately. 
  • Delays in speech and language milestone development can affect their ability to articulate sounds and form words.
  • Hearing impairments cause difficulties for the child in hearing and accurately reproducing speech sounds. 

When a child has difficulty with speech articulation, it can make it hard for others to understand them. This can cause the child to feel frustrated and anxious. 

This difficulty can also impact the child’s self-esteem, confidence, and motivation to speak.  Because of that, the child must receive intervention from a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP).

The SLP will provide articulation exercises that the child can practice at home. Through repetition and consistent practice, there will be an improvement in the child’s articulation skills.

2. Create a safe space for speech practice

Before starting any speech articulation exercise, it’s important to create a safe space for practice first. Make the child feel at ease and not scared to make mistakes. In the space, minimize visual and auditory distractions to help with focus.

Learning how to articulate correctly takes time, so providing a patient, supportive, and non-judgmental environment for children to practice speech is critical.

Use encouraging words and positive reinforcement to help build confidence and motivate the child to practice. 

3. Make learning and practicing fun

It’s more likely that a child will enjoy their speech articulation practices if you include the things they like to do. Be creative by incorporating fun and engaging activities into speech therapy sessions and daily practice routines.

Mother and daughter practicing speech articulation using toy letters https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/how-to-help-speech-articulation-problems/

Here are some ideas on how you can make speech practice more enjoyable:

  • Integrate games like word bingo, charades, or board games with speech-related tasks while targeting specific speech goals.
  • Utilize speech therapy apps that offer interactive exercises and feedback 
  • Create theme-based exercises based on the child’s interests, such as animals, superheroes, or favorite hobbies.  
  • Incorporate music by using songs with repetitive lyrics to target specific speech sounds that the child can sing along to.
  • A change in scenery can be very motivating for some children. Doing speech practice while participating in nature walks, scavenger hunts, or outdoor games may help. 

4. Speak slowly and clearly

To help your child accurately understand and replicate your modeled speech pattern, slow your speech rate and use clear and short phrases for explanations.

A lot of autistic children are visual learners. Using visual aids such as flashcards, picture books, or videos may enhance learning and make concepts more understandable. 

5. Practice sounds they struggle with

Work with your SLP to prioritize sounds that need to be targeted. Focus on this small number of target sounds initially to promote consistency and repetition in practice.

Once mastery is achieved, gradually introduce additional sounds for further improvement. No matter how many sounds a child struggles with, it’s important not to overwhelm them. Take it step by step, and celebrate every small achievement.

6. Make your corrections gentle

When providing feedback and corrections to children with speech articulation problems, it’s important to be gentle and supportive. Avoid criticizing your child or showing your frustrations.

Practice patience and understanding when correcting your child’s speech errors. Each child is on their own unique learning journey, which means they progress at their own pace.

It is important to create a supportive environment where the child is respected for their own unique learning journey of improving their articulation.

7. Praise good pronunciation

To other people, your child’s small victories may not seem much. But only you and your little one know how important every step of this journey is.

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Acknowledge improvements, no matter how small, and celebrate successes along the way. This positive reinforcement will help shape speech articulation skills.

As a child’s speech improves, parents, caregivers, and educators should praise and acknowledge instances of clear and accurate pronunciation. That way, they’ll be motivated to keep learning and using the lessons they’ve learned.

8. Make reading to your child a new daily habit

Reading aloud to children is essential for language development and speech articulation.

Regular reading sessions can expose children to various sounds, words, and language patterns, aiding in speech clarity and fluency.

To motivate and engage your children in interactive reading experiences, try the following:

  • Create a routine for reading at a certain time every day.
  • Choose books based on their interests.
  • Opt for books with engaging illustrations, interactive elements like flaps or textures, or ones that prompt participation through questions or actions.
  • Use different voices for characters, vary your tone, and encourage children to join in on repetitive phrases or sound effects.
  • Ask open-ended questions that encourage more than a yes/no answer.
  • Act out stories by using props or costumes.

9. Practice regularly

Consistent practice is critical for improving speech articulation skills. Parents, caregivers, and educators should incorporate regular speech exercises and activities into the child’s routine.

No matter what activity, verbalize words that include the targeted sounds. Also, ask your child questions so that they get to say the words with the target sounds.

Sitting down to exercise speech articulation each day isn’t the only way to learn. Incorporating practice into your child’s daily routine through everyday activities and language will be just as effective.

Patience is key

By incorporating activities that focus on specific sounds, providing positive reinforcement, and seeking professional guidance when needed, parents and caregivers can play a crucial role in helping their child improve their speech clarity and confidence.

Mother and a young boy practicing letter pronunciation https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/how-to-help-speech-articulation-problems/

Remember, patience is the most important part of helping a child with speech articulation problems. Be patient with yourself and your child, and celebrate progress along the way.

FAQs

Q: Can articulation disorder be corrected?

A: Yes, articulation disorders can often be corrected with appropriate intervention and therapy. The specific approach to correction depends on the child and the nature of their articulation disorder. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) specialize in diagnosing and treating communication disorders, including articulation disorders.

Q: How long does it take to correct an articulation disorder?

A: The duration it takes to correct an articulation disorder can vary widely. It depends on several factors, including the severity of the disorder, the individual’s age, their willingness to participate in therapy, and the effectiveness of the therapy program itself. 

Q: What’s the best form of articulation speech therapy?

A: The best form of articulation therapy is determined by factors such as the individual’s age, specific speech disorder, severity, motivation, and preferences, so it’s important to consult with a qualified speech-language pathologist to determine the most suitable therapy plan.

Q: When do speech problems in toddlers become evident?

A: Speech issues in toddlers usually become noticeable around 18 months to 2 years old when they start forming words. If a child isn’t meeting speech milestones like babbling or using single words by 15-18 months, it’s essential to consult a speech-language pathologist for early intervention and support.

References:

Mahr TJ, Soriano JU, Rathouz PJ, Hustad KC. Speech Development Between 30 and 119 Months in Typical Children II: Articulation Rate Growth Curves. J Speech Lang Hear Res. (2021) Nov 8;64(11):4057-4070. doi: 10.1044/2021_JSLHR-21-00206. Epub 2021 Sep 29. PMID: 34586882; PMCID: PMC9132150. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34586882/ 

Namasivayam, A. K., Coleman, D., O’Dwyer, A., & van Lieshout, P. (2020). Speech sound disorders in children: An articulatory phonology perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, Article 2998. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02998

Netelenbos, N., Gibb, R. L., Li, F., & Gonzalez, C. L. R. (2018). Articulation speaks to executive function: An investigation in 4- to 6-year-olds. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, Article 172. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00172 

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