Articulation Quick Fixes

I will start with the disclaimer that the information contained in this post is only meant as a guide and should not take the place of advice from a professional who has actually evaluated your child, it is only meant as a starting place.

There are certain sounds that A LOT of kids have trouble saying.  You know the ones: /k/ “I want a tootie” (I want a cookie)

/f/  “Did you see that biretruck?”  (Did you see that fire truck)

/th/ “I am so “firsty”  (I am so thirsty)

/s/  “the thun is yellow”  (He sun is yellow)

/r/ “He thwew the wock”  (He threw the rock)

It may be that your child only has one sound that he/she has difficulty producing and it might be that she is at a point where she is extremely stimuable for that sound.  If that is the case, with proper cueing you might be able to show your child how to produce that sound.

ImageThe first thing to note is whether or not the sound your child is struggling with is developmentally appropriate.  If your child is 4 and calling a “truck a “twuck” because he substitutes /w/ for /r/,  it is developmentally appropriate and is not anything to worry about  yet.  But if your child is 4 and is talking about your pet dog and “tat” (cat), the /k/ sound would be expected by age 3 and so it would be a sound that could be worked on.   You can reference the Articulation Development link here to see what sounds are expected to develop at what age.

If you determine that the sound that your child is producing incorrectly is a sound that is developmentally appropriate, then you can try the following cues to try to elicit the sound:

Sound Age by which sound is expected Cueing Strategy
/k/ 3 Open your mouth up make a cough sound /k/ /k//k/.
/f/ 3 Bite your lower lip and let air out.
/s/ 5 Make the “t” sound.  Now make the “t” sound again, keeping your tongue in the same place, but this time try to stretch out the sound “tsssss”.
/th/ voiceless (as in thumb) *7 :   Even though 7 is the developmental age, I find that because this sound is so visible often kids are stimuable for it by age 5 or 6. Stick your tongue out, bite down lightly, and let the air out.
*/r/ 6 Smile.   Hold the /l/ sound.  Now, keeping your molars together,  pull your tongue backwards along the roof of your mouth as if licking marshmallow fluff from the roof of your mouth until you hear and /r/ sound pop out.

“R” is complicated:  First of all one can’t SEE how it is produced, and because of the tongue placement, it is also really hard to FEEL how it is produced. Not only that, but depending on the context of the /r/, meaning where it is in the word and what sounds are around it, its actual production changes.   For that reason, it is usually not a sound that usually falls into the “quick fix” category.

If your child is easily stimuable for the sound in question, you can start practicing it at the beginnings of syllables or words.  Sometimes, as your child is just learning the sound they might need to put a small break between the sound and the rest of the word as it might be difficult for them to blend it right away (F-ish).

If you find that your child has several speech sound errors,  or is not immediately responsive the quick fix cues, don’t despair.  It just means that your child needs a little different path to the fix.  Find a speech-language pathologist who can evaluate your child’s speech and create a treatment plan that is tailor made to your child’s needs.

Untangling Childhood Apraxia of Speech

girl_post4Childhood Apraxia of Speech is disorder that impacts a child’s ability to coordinate their speech movements. The child knows what he/she want to say, but the sounds come out mixed up.   It is sometimes frustrating for parents when they have heard their child produce that “F” sound perfectly, but then when it comes time to applying it to phrases or sentences it all falls apart. Or sometimes their child can say certain phrases perfectly, but then when using the same sound set in  more novel combinations, it comes out all mixed up.   “Is he being lazy?” I am asked.

No, your child is not being lazy.  It is just really hard for your child’s brain to coordinate all of those sounds together.  Apraxia therapy considers your child’s sound repertoire and at what point the motor coordination becomes taxing. It then seeks to systematically expand the repertoire and coordination. Children with Apraxia of Speech usually present with multiple sound errors, but for the sake of  keeping it simple for this post I will just use the phoneme /f/ as an example.  Apraxia therapy involves a lot of intense practice and repetition as it is seeking to build motor coordination for speech production.

Therapy would start at the level at which your child is able to coordinate their speech.  Maybe that is just imitating a single sound.  Whatever that level is, through a hierarchy of cueing techniques we would want to work toward expanding that coordination ability.

There are levels of cueing that can be used to accomplish this, including:

  • Verbal Explanation:  “Bite your lip”, if coordinating /f/
  • Hand Cues:  placing a finger on your bottom lip, feeling the air from the /f/.
  • Visual Modeling:  Showing child the placement of the articulators on yourself
  • Fill in the Blank:  My toes are on my_____________.
  • Written cues:  Showing the child where the /f/ is in the word.
  • Assimilation:  Using a sound that is consistent in the child’s repertoire and is closely related to the targeted sound as a spring board to the new target sound.

There are a host of other cues that can also work.  The idea is to find the least restrictive combination of cues that are effective and then reduce the dependence on those cues over time.  And with time and practice and practice and more practice and patience  you will see your child being able to independently coordinate longer strings of speech.

Finding a speech-language pathologist that can conduct a thorough evaluation of your child’s sound repertoire and speech coordination skills and then set up an intense treatment program that you can be a hands on part of will enhance and promote your child’s progress toward his/her best communication.

Not “JUST a Language Impairment”

apple_booksToo often I come across administrators, teachers, and even sometimes parents who underestimate the impact of language upon academic success.    Think about how content is delivered within the classroom. Think about how directions are given. Think about how your child is asked to convey his/her knowledge.  All of these modes are through language.  As a result, children with language impairments ARE at academic risk.    Understanding what the specific challenges your child faces and what accommodations can or should be made within their academic environment can make a world of difference in their success and growth.

Language Impaired children may not qualify for Special Education with a “Specific Learning Disability” but they may qualify with a “Speech and Language Impairment”.  This disability entitles them to the classroom accommodations that they need just as any child with a learning disability is entitled to.  These accommodations would be laid out in an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) tailored especially for your child’s needs.  Some accommodations, depending on the nature of your child’s language impairment may include things like: having your child repeat directions back to the teacher, allowing your child extended time on tests and assignments, providing your child with a word bank for written essays, providing your child with a copy of the teacher’s notes, multi sensory presentation of information, frequently checking with your child for comprehension, seating your child near the teacher, etc…  The accommodations would be driven by your child’s disability and formulated by a team of professionals such as the classroom teacher, the speech-language pathologist, a psychologist, the principal…  You also are an important part of your child’s educational team and so facilitating regular and open communication channels with your child’s school is imperative.  With good support at home and at school to teach and facilitate use of strategies, children can have really successful outcomes.

Sometimes, you, as the parent, are your child’s entry point for getting the help that they need within the educational system.  With that in mind, remember the critical role that language plays in both the way that information is presented at school and in the way that our children are asked to convey their knowledge, and if somebody hints that accommodations are not needed because “it is just a language impairment”, stand ready to help them to adjust their perspective on your child’s behalf.