How to support your child's pronounciation

by on 19-10-2021 in Parenting Aid

Courtesy Carianne Vermeulen Speech Therapist
Pr Nr 0811106/0347051


What is articulation?

Articulation (i.e. pronunciation) is a child’s ability to physically move the tongue, lips, teeth and jaw to produce sequences of speech sounds, which make up words and sentences.


Why is articulation important?

Accurate articulatory skills are important to be able to produce sounds, words and sentences which are clear and can be easily understood and interpreted by others. This allows a child to express basic needs and wants, right through to being able to engage in complex conversations.

Depending on the nature and the extent of the child’s difficulties, unclear speech can impact significantly on how well he/she can interact with adults and their peers and can affect the development of their language and social skills.   A child who is having difficulties being understood can become frustrated and angry which may lead to behavioural issues.  Articulation is also important in the development of their literacy skills, such as reading and spelling out of words.


What are the building blocks necessary to develop articulation?

  • Attention and concentration:  Sustained effort, listening and doing activities without distraction and being able to hold that effort long enough to get the task done (e.g. being able to attend to speech and sounds long enough to be able to process the information).
  • Hearing:  For detection of the different speech sounds.
  • Good middle-ear functioning. For example, a child with on-going ear infections, ‘glue ear’ or colds which block the ears may have fluctuating hearing levels which can affect the development of their speech production skills.     
  • Auditory processing skills, which is the brain’s ability to identify and process differences between speech sounds.
  • Muscle coordination:  The ability to move and coordinate the muscles involved in producing speech sounds (e.g. lips, tongue, vocal cords, jaw and palate).
  • Understanding that different speech sounds convey different meaning.


What can be done to improve my child’s articulation?

  • Limit screen time. Excessive screen time is detrimental to a child’s speech, language and auditory processing development.
  • Play:  For the young child, engage in play where you model and use lots of different sounds while playing (e.g. saying “ch ch ch” as the train passes by, “baa” goes the sheep).
  • Talk to your child often throughout the day to model correct pronunciation of words.
  • Reduce background noise:  Turn off background noise in the home (e.g. television, radio, music) when engaging with your child to minimize distractions.
  • Look at your child when they are speaking and encourage them to look at you so that they can imitate how to say words or sounds correctly.
  • Read to your child daily.
  • Be attentive. Listen and respond to your child’s message.
  • Repeat your child’s sentences if their speech was not clear (e.g. Child: “Dat my deen tar.” Adult: “Yes, that is your green car.”).  By repeating what your child has said you are producing a good language model and you are also showing that you have listened to what your child has said. Emphasize the words in your sentence that your child could not pronounce correctly.
  • Show:   Ask your child to show you what they are talking about if you do not understand what they have said.  Ask for ONE repetition and try to have a guess.  Don’t be afraid of saying you don’t understand what your child has said.


What activities can help improve my child’s articulation skills?

  • Naming items together when completing tasks such as looking at a book, in the car, looking outside, while playing, during shopping or any other everyday activity (e.g. bathing, eating, etc.).
  • Playing something together that your child really enjoys and throughout the game model words with which they are having difficulty.
  • Modeling and using different sounds during interactions and in play (e.g. “s” is the snake sound, “sh” the baby is sleeping).
  • Listening to and identifying sounds in words (e.g. “shoe” starts with the “sh” sound).
  • Correcting:  If your child says a word incorrectly, model the correct production back to them but there is no need to make them say it again (e.g. Child: “Look at the tat.”. Adult: “Yes, it is a cat. It is a big cat.”) and then continue with the conversation.  This helps to provide your child with a subtle, positive correction by modelling the correct response rather than highlighting that your child has said it incorrectly.


When to seek help?

If your child has difficulties with articulation which persist, it is recommended that you consult a Speech Therapist.