Making and Practicing Speech Sounds

When most people think of speech therapy, they think of kids working on their sounds. That is a big part of speech and language therapy but not all we work on. But, that is the focus of this post!

Once a speech therapist figures out what sounds a child needs to work on, most therapists follow the same basic therapy structure to practice those sounds. Once a child can make the sound reliably (80% of the time or more), it is time to move to the next level of difficulty. Here is an example with the /m/ sound:

  • Isolation- can the child make the sound by itself: mmmmmm
  • Word level- can the child make the sound correctly in a word:
    • Beginning of a word: make
    • Middle of a word: hammer
    • End of a word: jam
  • Sentence level- can the child make the sound correctly in a sentence: I make a sandwich, I use a hammer, I eat jam.
  • Reading level- can the child make the sound correctly when reading aloud
  • Conversation level- can the child make the sound correctly when speaking spontaneously in a conversation with someone else

Generalization is our ultimate goal: can the child use the sound correctly in any situation

It can take a lot of practice to break the old habit of saying a sound incorrectly and form a new habit. Articulation therapy is all about practice, practice, practice.

Below are some prompts for children if their speech therapist has already started working on the sounds with them. I wouldn’t recommend trying to teach them a brand new sound with these prompts alone. They are just meant to be reminders about what they’ve already learned and practiced in therapy.

Here are some prompts you can say to your child for various speech sounds:

  • p/b/m- “Put your lips together”
  • t/d/n- “Put your tongue up behind your teeth”
  • k/g/ing- “Put your tongue tip down and pull your tongue back in your mouth”
  • f/v- “Put your lip under your top teeth”
  • th- “Stick your tongue out and blow”
  • l- “Put your tongue up to your teeth”
  • s/z- “Close your teeth and smile”
  • ch/j/sh- “Close your teeth, round your lips, put your tongue up to the bump behind your teeth”
  • r- “Close your teeth, round your lips, pull your tongue back and up”
  • w- “Round your lips”

Other ways to prompt your child- These are some examples to prompt the s sound-  “I heard pit, can you say sssspit?” “Is it pit, or spit?” “Try that word again with your good s sound.” “Remember to close your teeth and smile”

Ideas For Practice

Activity 1: Pick at least 20 words from your child’s word list and practice saying the words correctly using their sounds (The focus is on the child saying it correctly, not reading the word. Say the word for your child and have them repeat it). Then have them try to say the word correctly in a sentence. Make note of words pronounced correctly and incorrectly.

Activity 2: Play a board game with your student/family. Talk about whose turn it is, where each person has to move to, colors on the board, how many spaces they need to move, etc. Have your child ask for things they need to complete their turn- I need the dice please, Can I have a card, etc. Board games encourage turn-taking, color identification, counting, social language, asking/answering questions, following directions/rules, etc. Some great board games for language are Hedbanz, Ned’s Head, Guess Who, Guess Where, Pictureka, Sorry, Spot It, Pop the Pig, Memory Games, Uno, Apples to Apples Jr., Go Fish, etc. Encourage them to use their speech sounds. If they forget to say their sound, ask them using their error (for example- “is it dame or game”). Have your child repeat the word again with their correct sound.

Playing gamees is a great way to target many speech goals!

Activity 3: Read a book together. Look for words that have your child’s sound(s) in them. Have your child say the word correctly while they read. If a parent is reading the story, stop and model the word for your child and have them repeat it with their sound. For example- “There is the word lion, say lion with your good L sound”. 

Activity 4: Play I spy- in your house, in the car, outside, wherever! Try to find objects that start with your child’s target sound(s). For a child working on s- I spy something with eight legs, that builds a web, it’s an insect- I spy a spider, I spy a stick, I spy a sock, etc.

Activity 5: Play catch/roll a ball to each other. Every time you get the ball you have to name a word that starts with your child’s sound(s). Depending on your child’s skill level, it may be easier to focus on one sound at a time if they are working on multiple sounds. If they won’t get too confused- go ahead and name any word starting with any of their sounds.  

Activity 6: Look for objects in the newspaper, magazines, or around the house that start with your child’s sound. Cut out the pictures or write down the things you find on a piece of paper. Send in the pictures or words you found for me to see so we can practice them too.

Activity 7: Pick 5-10 words that start with your child’s sound(s). Write them on notecards or a piece of paper. Leave the paper in a room of your house. Every time you go in that room, your child has to say those words correctly. Make several lists for various rooms in the house. You could also do this before he can turn on the TV, open the fridge, play a video game, etc. If you do this consistently, they will start to get really good at saying these words correctly and reading the words. After a week or when they have mastered them, change the words on the list to target more words.

Activity 8: Record your child reading for 5 minutes.  Listen to the recording and stop it when you hear an error. Try and correct the error. Make note of words pronounced correctly and incorrectly. Send in the words pronounced correctly and incorrectly so we can practice them too.

Activity 9: Pick a time to talk about your child’s day (or whatever topic) for 5 minutes while you listen for correct and incorrect speech sound productions. If your child makes a mistake, have them repeat their words again correctly- for example, “I heard pit did you mean pick?”

Activity 10: Pick 10 words from your child’s word list and write a story with them using the words. After you use all the words and complete the story, underline or highlight the target words. Have your child read the story, if they can, or have them say the words when you get to it. Send the story to school so I can hear your child read it.

Try different ways to practice and have fun!

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