School is out; there are fireflies and s’mores, barbecues, trips to the beach, and family time. Summer is in full swing…and articulation practice should be too! Many of us have left school work behind, but those of us working on “sounds” with our children should keep working, a little at a time, every day this summer.
Articulation is this month’s topic. In general, “articulation” is the way we make or pronounce our sounds within our words. Many children have so much to say but are unable to produce sounds correctly. Very often we’ll hear our kids omitting a sound (i.e. “blue” becomes “boo”); substituting one sound for another (“car” becomes “tar”); or distorting a sound (“slushy” “s” sounds). All of these can make it difficult to decipher what is being said.
As with other speech concerns, parents’ and caregivers’ involvement is critical. From a technical perspective, there are tricks and skills parents can help teach, such as getting lips together to make “p,” “b,” and “m” sounds; lifting tongue tips to produce “t,” “d,” “n,” and “ l”; lifting the backs of tongues to produce “k” and “g”; keeping tongues in the mouth to make “s” and “z”; and so on.
As with last month’s techniques addressing speech delays, very often the real “trick” in helping kids with articulation is to build learning into our everyday activities.
Daily Articulation Techniques
- Have an artist on your hands? Have him draw five pictures with his sound.
- Athlete? Have her say three words every time she scores a goal.
- Musician? Play freeze dance or have a dance party – every time the music stops, he says three words.
- Long road trip? (Think of all those hours of opportunities!) Find 10 things that have her sound in it.
- Running to the Village Market? Spot five items in each aisle that have his sound.
- Going to the playground? Push your child on the swing, and when she’s ready for another push, have her say a word three times.
- Play hopscotch – have her say a word each time she jumps.
- Hide objects with the target sound in rice and beans or in a sandbox and search for them – have him label the objects as he finds them.
- Play hide-n-seek – place pictures of words all over the room/house and see how long it takes him to find them – have him say each word he brings back to you.
- Memory or matching – make two copies of pictures to use.
- Game night – Everyone says her target word before each turn (family/peer support really works wonders).
- Make a “feely” bag – find objects that contain his sound and place them in a non-see through bag – have him feel around and guess what the objects are.
- Find some short stories online that have her sounds and encourage her to read them – you’ll get some summer reading done and provide opportunities to work on sounds.
- Scrabble – try to spell words that contain his sound.
- Put her words into a crossword puzzle or a word find for her.
Try to Keep a Schedule!
Helping our kids produce their sounds correctly can be tedious. They talk all day! But the key to improving sound production is repetition, and keeping a schedule is important. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when you are working with your children:
- Review words 2-3 times per day for 5-10 minutes – morning, afternoon, evening.
- Pick two 5-minute segments during the day to target sound production in conversational speech – point out “errors” when talking about his day at camp, or when asking about her play date, or when talking about his favorite activity of the day.
You Know Your Child Best
Remember: You know your child best! If they can tolerate more frequent practice or you identifying/having them correct their sounds in conversational speech more often – go for it! The key is to find a balance. We don’t want them running every time we say, “It’s time to practice your words.” Improving sound production takes many months. It will not happen overnight, so it’s important not to “burn out” our kids!
Although repetition is best to build up that muscle memory, don’t over-do it! Longer is not better – shorter periods of review more frequently during the day is better.
Next month: Is your child still not talking like his/her peers? I’ll offer some strategies and activities to promote language development.
Jennifer C. Lalor is a practicing speech-language pathologist here in Wilton. Her email address is email@example.com.