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Top 3 Proven Speech Therapy Tips When Your Child’s Speech Is Unclear
Are you having trouble understanding what your child is saying?
Does she say “Ouch” instead of “lion” or is it wrong with other sounds?
Is your child left out at school or on the playground because the other kids don’t understand him?
It’s frustrating for both you and your child when you can’t understand her and have to ask more questions just to clarify. Here are the main reasons we often explain to our speech therapy clients why your child has slurred speech:
Various muscles are involved in the production of speech, and sometimes the inability to activate these muscles can cause speech to be slurred. For example, your child may not be able to lift the tip of his tongue to produce ‘l’ sound.
Control and coordination.
The problem may not be muscle weakness, but rather your child having difficulty coordinating movements. This is similar to people who can’t dance. There’s nothing really wrong with their legs, but they dance ‘with two left feet’. So your child may be able to tell ‘l’ in ‘lion’, but I can’t tell ‘l’ in the “caterpillar”. Or she could say ‘lion’ for a minute and ‘Ouch’ the next i ‘wion’ next.
This is more about the cognitive concept of sounds, as opposed to the physical aspect of speech production. For example, if your child grew up speaking or listening to Mandarin Chinese, they may say ‘hou-‘ instead of ‘house’ or ‘cat-‘ instead of ‘catch’.
It’s not that he isn’t capable of producing ‘-se’ or ‘-ch’ sound; this is simply because there are no such final sounds in Mandarin and thus makes it difficult for him to grasp the concept that there are final sounds in English.
Why speech therapy is important
A speech therapist is a specialist who is specially trained to diagnose and treat speech problems in children (and adults). Speech therapy is important because:
1. It makes your life easier
2. Eliminates the vicious circle: slurred speech causes less interaction and therefore less speech input and poorer speech and language.
When your child has slurred speech, it can result in less interaction with other children, which would result in even poorer speech and language due to lack of practice. Even adults take speech therapy classes for this reason alone.
3. It affects how your child learns to read.
Instead of learning to write ‘s’ has a ‘sock’ sound, for example, if he says ‘tock’ instead, he may end up thinking it’s a letter ‘s’ there is ‘no’ sound.
4 guiding principles for speech therapy
Teaching a child with slurred speech may be different from how you teach other children in your family. You may need to repeat the sounds more often and emphasize the sounds more. Here are a few things we regularly use in speech therapy when dealing with your child’s slurred speech:
Note that clear speech sounds are reduced to oral motor movements of the tongue or lips or other speech muscles. (It’s not ‘All About That Bass’, it’s ‘All About the Place’!) The position of the tongue, i.e.
We produce different speech sounds in tongue twisters (“She sells shells on the seashore.”) and in everyday speech because we can move the tongue to different positions in the mouth, and we also make sounds in different ways. Some sounds are ‘quiet blowing sounds’ such as ‘f’, ‘s’, ‘sh’; some other sounds are ‘noisy sounds’ such as ‘z’, or ‘r’.
Note that some sounds develop earlier and some later.
The general developmental order of speech is ‘outside in’. This means that it is easier for your child to use the lips and jaw than the tongue. So it’s important to note that some sounds don’t come as easily as others.
Note that not all words that start with the same letter or sound will be equally easy or difficult.
A child who has difficulty speaking “k” the sounds will make it easier to pronounce the sound in a word like “dragon” where the mouth is more open and there is more room for the tongue in the back of the mouth compared to the correct pronunciation in “key” where the mouth is more closed.
Note that getting from the current location to the target sound may require several intermediate steps.
For example, if your child cannot say “the” and says “ge” instead, they may have to learn how to thrive ‘g’ to ‘d’ and then ‘th’. Anything that moves her in the right direction is progress.
Now that we’ve covered the ‘why’, it’s time for the ‘how’:
Here are the top three speech therapy tips:
1. Slow down, emphasize the sound and do everything to show the child the necessary movements of the tongue and lips.
If your child says totate instead of “chocolate”, instead of just telling your child ‘No, say chocolate’, at your usual speaking speed, try slowing down and emphasizing the sound: ‘ch-Chocolates‘. Exaggerate what you do with your mouth. Look in the mirror with your child as you teach so he can see what you are both doing.
If your child cannot pronounce the whole word, at least try to correct a small part of the word, for example, only being able to pronounce the sound “ch-ch-ch” or even only a partially correct sound, such as only being able to blow air or only rounding the lips.
2. Help your child hear what is not and what is.
Help your child avoid mistakes and pronounce the sounds correctly by showing them what they are no and what is it. For example, “I don’t have coyour pencils, they are all wholour pencils. What would you like?” Your child is more likely to say “crayon” correctly.
It’s also important to give them very clear feedback. This includes imitating what your child is doing or describing the sound in a language your child understands. For example, you might say, “If you say ‘-op’ your friend may not understand you. It is quiet sound h-op.”
3. One game-changing tip: Learn it out loud, then say it silently, then say it out loud again.
One great speech therapy tip I’ve found with my experience is to focus on mouth movements. Ask the child to say the word with you, for example ‘strawberry’. On the second try, just say the word without saying it out loud.
Encourage your child to move his mouth in the same way. This allows your child to focus more on mouth movements. Using a mirror can help your child see exactly how he is moving his mouth.
Keep in mind that correcting slurred speech through speech therapy exercises is a process. It is better to be able to do it slowly than not to be able to do it at all. Speech therapy for learning the necessary lips and tongue movement is more like learning to dance or play the piano than learning a new language.
Only knowing a word is not the same as being able to move your tongue fast enough to say Word. It takes practice and the more you practice, the better you will get. So you want to try to get your child to say the word more than once. One time is NOT exercise.
Remember: Your child is where he is right now because of the way he is learning so far. If your child learns speech differently, he should be taught differently. Seek professional help and consult a speech therapist.
Working with a speech therapist will save you and your child a lot of time and frustration. More often than not, your child will also enjoy the speech therapy sessions!
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