Child Articulation Disorders

Child Articulation DisordersAs a Reston speech therapist, I am frequently asked how to best treat child articulation disorders.  Specifically, I am frequently asked the following questions by parents about their children:

1.  Is the speech error that I am hearing my child produce normal for their age?

2.  Will my child outgrow the speech sound errors that he/she is currently producing?

3.  What are the components of an effective speech sound (i.e., articulation) correction program?


Child Articulation Disorders

First, it should be pointed out that it is common for children to make speech sound errors as they are learning to talk.  This is a normal part of speech and language development.  For example, you may notice that when your child produces the /s/ sound, he/she sticks their tongue out between their teeth and it comes out sounding more like a “th” sound (e.g., “sun” = “thun”).  This is known as an interdental lisp, and is developmentally appropriate for all children until approximately the age of 4.5.  In fact, all speech sounds have a range of ages as to when they should be produced correctly by a child. A speech sound disorder only occurs when errors occur past a certain age.   In order to find out when a specific sound should be produced correctly by your child, referring to a speech and articulation development chart such as the following can be extremely helpful:

When determining whether a child will outgrow the speech sound errors that they are currently producing, it is again important to look at their chronological age.  Since it is common for children to produce speech sound errors up until a certain age, many sound errors will resolve on their own.  However, once a child reaches the age at which a specific speech sound should be produced correctly and the sound is still being produced in error, it is unlikely to resolve on its own without the help of a professional speech therapist.

So, what are the components of a good speech sound correction program?

1. Hearing screening and oral-mechanism exam: It is very important that your child be able to hear the difference between their error sound and the correct sound.  It is equally important that your child’s oral structures (i.e., teeth, lips, tongue, etc.) be adequate for speech production.

2. Use of multi-sensory techniques: In order to assist your child in making proper speech sounds, auditory, visual and tactile (i.e., touch) cues should be utilized in the session.  This may include the clinician providing your child with appropriate models, use of a mirror, and helping your child to shape their oral structures to produce an appropriate sound.

3. Provide a large number of practice opportunities: For a child to learn a new sound, a new motor plan must be developed.  This is accomplished through successive repetitions of the target behavior when given many practice opportunities.

4. Structure of session should be motivating to the child: The teaching of speech sounds can be taught through the use of motivating activities.  High interest games and movement activities will help to keep your child on-task and looking forward to their next session.

5. Homework assignments: It is essential that homework assignments be provided following each session in order for learned skills to generalize into day-to-day communication.

Through the use of appropriate education and a program that contains the above-mentioned components, your child’s production of specific speech sounds should continue to improve over time.

If you are interested in learning more about articulation therapy provided by A Step Above Speech Language Pathology, please contact us for more information.  We cater to clients in Northern Virginia, specifically in Herndon, Reston, Arlington, Vienna, Mclean, Annandale, Fairfax, Merrifield, and Washington, D.C.



Child Articulation DisordersGeoffrey Greenman, M.A., CCC-SLP is a Northern Virginia speech therapist.  He is the owner of “A Step Above Speech-Language Pathology.” We are a local Falls Church speech private practice helping to correct child articulation disorders.