Your child or a child you educate is hard to understand.

He or she may have a speech sound difficulty and you want to help.

You have made a start by isolating this area of your child’s development for specific attention as you know that speech that is easily understood can help your child interact successfully and positively with others, make friends and reduce frustration.

If you are still unsure if ‘speech’ is the area of communication development that your child needs assistance in, then read one of our previous blogposts on the topic here

You have decided on some sounds to get started with but…..

Your child or a child you educate is unable to imitate you when you model the sounds in words and encourage him or her to imitate you.

Your child refuses to do any home practice with you.

Your child struggles to focus, pay attention and fully engage when you attempt to practice at home.

You are struggling to find the time to do any home practice as have a busy schedule as a parent/carer or early childhood educator.

Let’s tackle one of these challenges this week.  Here are some tried and tested tricks that I have found can help carers and educators make speech home programmes work!

Your child is unable to accurately imitate the sounds when you model them in words

Here are some tips to try:

  1.  Don’t request that your child imitates you.  Instead of working on encouraging your child to SAY the new, tricky sound in words…take the pressure off for a while and simply model the sound in words naturally as it occurs throughout the day in everyday routines. For example, if you child’s sound to learn is the /l/ sound, you can repeat and draw attention to words such as ‘like’ ‘love’ ‘little’ ‘lick’ ‘lolly’ ‘lots’ and ‘light’ throughout the day.
  2. Speak with your Speech Pathologist (if you have one) about starting with an easier sound for your child to get started. Sometimes we need to start with something really simple and very achievable for the child in order to build confidence and motivation.  If you are trying this at home or in an early childhood setting without a Speech Pathologist’s guidance; then this advice is even more important.  Go back to the information you have about the child and the sounds that are difficult for him or her to say.  Perhaps choose one of the earlier developing sounds to start on.  Success breeds confidence.  There is an entire chapter to help you do this in our FREE resource available here
  3. I love the analogy of helping a child learn to ride a 2-wheel pushbike.  Would we just show the child how to ride the bike and then expect them to be able to imitate this new complex motor task without any other help?  Of course not.  This is similar to when helping a child learn how to use a new speech sound in words.  At first your child is going to need lots of assistance.  Much the same as holding the bike seat and running along beside your child when he or she is first learning to ride a bike; we are going to put in lots of supports for the child to harness success and only gradually reduce these supports.
  4. Supports that you can add to help your child learn a new speech sound include encouraging your child to first ‘listen and look’ as you model the sound in a word. Encouraging your child to look at your mouth as you model the word is really important, particularly for sounds that use our lips and our tongue at the front of our palate where we can ‘see’ the movement.  This can give your child lots of information about how the sound is articulated.  Using a mirror can also make a big difference. Children can SEE as well as HEAR their own attempts to imitate the new sound.
  5. Take the sound out of the word if your child is really finding this tricky…talk about what moves.  Is the sound made using our lips, our tongue, our voicebox…it is long or is it short?  Have some fun with this.  Keep it light and explore the qualities of the sound together with your child.
  6. Most importantly of all, remember that learning a new speech sound is tricky business for children.  Provide your child with loads of encouragement and positive praise for any attempts.

Stay tuned for next week’s Chatterbox where I will share more tips to trouble shoot this common challenge faced by many of us when we are working with children who have speech sound difficulties.

What have you found helpful when working with your own child or a child you educate?  I get so many of my best tips for parent/carers and educators that I work with.  Sharing what worked has for you might just help someone else out there who is desperate to help their child but is struggling to do so.