Do you notice your child saying words you don’t understand, mispronouncing letters, or frequently stuttering? It may be possible that he has an articulation disorder.
You might have told yourself, “This is just a phase; he will grow out of it.”
In reality, some children simply do not and would require speech therapy for articulation to help them get back on track.
It may be hard to pinpoint speech errors and correct them.
As a parent, there is just a lot of technical jargon. Still, it doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to support your child.
The first step in articulation therapy is understanding what it is, and that’s exactly what we’ll talk about here.
- What Are Articulation Disorders?
- How Does Speech Language Therapy Work?
- What To Expect From Articulation Speech Therapy?
- Speech Therapy for Articulation
- Seek the Assistance of Therapy Tools
- Promote Language Development With Articulation Therapy
What Are Articulation Disorders?
Articulation disorders fall within the category of functional speech sound disorders. They involve issues with oral motor skills and sensory or perceptual processing.
In simpler words, when a child is struggling to either understand or form words and phrases properly, they may be suffering from:
- Receptive disorders (understanding language)
- Expressive disorders (using language), or
- Cognitive-communication disorders (attention, memory, and communication skills).
Articulation delay is the inability to pronounce particular sounds clearly, often leading the child to either omit, substitute, distort, or add other incorrect sounds to compensate.
Common articulation error types may be replacing the /t/, /s/, or /r/ sounds with /w/ or /th/.
It may be normal up until four to five years. After that, difficulty producing sounds may hint at a functional speech disorder.
Such disorders are not congenital, meaning the child is not born with them; instead, there is no primary cause for their appearance.
It may differ from other phonological disorders where a child can produce sounds as individual syllables but cannot integrate them properly within words.
If you notice your child having similar speech-related troubles, they may need speech therapy, but what exactly is it?
Keep on reading to find out.
How Does Speech Language Therapy Work?
Children with articulation problems will be referred to a specialist known as a speech-language pathologist.
Therapy sessions will involve special techniques, interactive activities, and home exercises to help the child correctly articulate sounds and produce more intelligible speech.
Accordingly, the speech therapist will focus on articulation approaches that strengthen oral motor skills more than concentrating on linguistic rules.
These include a series of age-appropriate repetition practices of sounds that rely on visual cues and sensory feedback.
In turn, this will guide the child toward an accurate production of speech sounds.
Children with speech sound issues are not the only ones to benefit from speech therapy exercises.
Adults with chronic neurological illnesses, hearing impairments, structural abnormalities, and other speech-related disorders will find them beneficial, too.
For a child, it is important to start speech-language therapy as soon as possible since the correct production of sounds is a crucial step to being understood.
This will not only strengthen a child’s conversational skills but also give them the confidence boost to interact with others more.
What To Expect From Articulation Speech Therapy?
The articulation therapy process and treatment plan are carefully modeled and strategized based on the child’s progress and need.
It comes in a hierarchy of levels going from simple isolated sounds to full-on engaging conversations.
The first step is determining whether your child needs articulation therapy.
You have probably heard your child mispronounce words in everyday conversations, especially at a young age.
To know if this is due to a language disorder or simply a developmental stage, it is crucial to take the child to a professional therapist.
The language therapist will perform a traditional evaluation to assess whether or not therapy is required.
Based on the severity of the signs, the therapist will design an appropriate treatment plan.
While some children may start showing improvement from the first few sessions, others may take more time, and that’s completely normal.
Speech Therapy for Articulation
The structure of the treatment plan will always, in one way or another, abide by the following hierarchical phonological process:
Step 1: Identification of Mispronounced Sounds
After recommending articulation therapy, screening will be performed, and common speech sound errors will be determined.
A comprehensive speech sound assessment will include different kid-friendly activities to evaluate how well the child performs in both sound stimulability and sound elicitation exercises.
This is an easy way to determine what sounds the child can successfully imitate and learn.
The pathologist will take note of common speech patterns occurring as well as the sounds the child tends to distort, substitute, or delete.
Step 2: Practice Sound in Isolation
As the word suggests, typical speech sound therapy will start with isolating individual sounds and practicing their pronunciation repetitively.
The therapist will monitor the number of accurate productions but will not add consonants or vowels. Once satisfied, he will move on to the next step.
Step 3: Practice Sound in Syllables
At the syllable level, the target sound is added before or after the different vowels to practice pronouncing consonants correctly, both long and short pronunciations.
For instance, if the sound in question is /t/, then the different vowel positions would be:
- Initial positions – it, at, ot, ut, et
- Final positions – ti, ta, to, tu, te
- Medial positions – iti, ata, oto, utu, ete
This will help the child practice difficult sounds when the position of syllables is at the beginning, middle, and end of the words.
Step 4: Practice Sounds in Words
The therapist will decide on the type of speech sound and position to target.
After that, the next step in any speech sound perception training is practicing complete words.
There are various techniques and articulation approaches for practicing, such as a list of minimal pairs (words resembling the target word) or flashcards.
Typically, an accuracy level of 80 to 85 percent is enough to move on to the next step.
Step 5: Practice in Sentences
At the sentence level, it’s all about creativity.
Even for children who can’t read yet, rotating around short sentences makes it easy for them to memorize and practice.
You can also incorporate minimal pairs and flashcards within your sentences and phrases.
For older children, it may be a good idea to select a story rich with the target sound.
This not only encourages them to use the words creatively in a story but allows for a fun activity and smooth transition towards the following step.
Step 6: Conversational Level
At this point, the child has mastered all the skills they need to start practicing conversational speech.
By consistently having conversations and being corrected along the way, the child learns how to articulate sounds in all contexts of language.
The language skills he gained by attending regular appointments should have allowed him to master various aspects of speech production, from words to sentences and conversations.
Seek the Assistance of Therapy Tools
Following these steps should be easy, but additional support along the way is also advisable.
Here are a couple of therapy tools to help improve the conversational skills of children with speech-language pathology or language delay:
1. TalkTools Sensi Therapist Kit
This is both an oral therapy tool and an orofacial myofunctional therapy kit.
It was medically designed to stimulate and activate sensory information in the mouth of patients.
It is an excellent tool if you want to improve your child’s feeding or sensory skills as well as his oral motor movements and general articulation.
2. TalkTools Apraxia Kit
This kit, as the name suggests, has been developed by an expert in apraxia of speech.
It is designed to help patients deal with motor movements and sound production inaccuracy.
The multisensory tool includes unique features, such as tactile cues, that are extremely useful for articulation training.
Promote Language Development With Articulation Therapy
After a detailed description of the steps involved in speech therapy for articulation and speech sound disorders, it is clear that treating a child with language difficulties is no easy task.
Interventions for speech sound should always be accompanied by intense practice sessions at home and in clinics.
It is only by combining professional services and home revision that the child will overcome their daily speech barriers.