Does your child have a speech sound error or two that he doesn’t seem to be outgrowing? By age seven or eight, children should have mastered all of their speech sounds. Some sounds, such as t, d, k, g, p, b, and f, should be produced correctly well before that age.

If you suspect or know that your child has an articulation problem, seeing a speech-language-pathologist for an evaluation is a wise first step. He or she will be able to tell you exactly which sounds are in error-there may be some that you haven’t noticed! Even if you opt to work with your child at home, the speech pathologist should be able to give you some tips and get you started. However, this isn’t the preferred option for many parents. Perhaps you can’t afford speech therapy or fit it into your schedule.

If you would like to work with your child’s speech at home, here are some guidelines and ideas.

First, pick a sound or group of sounds to work on. You may want to pick an easier sound to start with, or one that is important to the child, such as a sound in his name. Make the sound yourself and consider exactly how it is made. Where in your mouth does your tongue touch? Does the air leak through slowly, such as in an “s”? Or does the air pop out quickly, as in a “t”? If your child cannot produce the sound at all, you will have to describe this to him as well as model the sound.

First, teach the child to say the sound by itself. Model it for him. Use your finger, spoon handle, or Popsicle stick to touch his mouth or tongue in the target spots. When your child can produce it, practice. Practice, practice, and practice some more until he can produce it in isolation every time.

Then practice words that begin with the target sound, moving on to words with the sound in the middle or at the end. Blends are more difficult and should be taught last.

When your child can produce the sound in words with 95% accuracy, begin practicing in sentences. By the time sentences are mastered, you will probably hear the sound being used most of the time in conversation. This may take a few weeks or even months. Don’t expect your child to use the sound in conversation right away-it will take time before he can produce the sound correctly without thinking about it.

Make your speech practice time fun. Keep the sessions short, but practice every day. Play board games, making your child say his word 3 times before every turn. Hop across the room, repeating the sound with every bounce. With dedicated practice, you should soon see improvement in your child’s articulation skills!

Deborah M. Lott is a speech pathologist who has published the Super Star Speech series of books to help parents correct their children’s articulation errors at home.. She blogs about speech and language topics and provides additional information and free speech therapy resources at http://www.superstarspeech.com/

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