What are they saying? Everything you need to know about speech & sound disorders in children

What are they saying? Everything you need to know about speech & sound disorders in children

Children are likely to mispronounce some sounds as they learn to talk. By the age of 4 years,
children are expected to say most sounds accurately according to developmental milestones. A
child who does not or cannot say the sounds accurately by the expected age may have a speech
sound disorder. But what are speech & sound disorders in children and how can parents help?

What are speech sound disorders?

Speech sound disorders (SSD) is a generic term used to describe a range of difficulties producing speech sounds in children (McLeod and Baker, 2017). 

The various disorders can be further categorised.

How are speech sound disorders identified?

Speech and Language Therapists will assess a child’s speech by listening to how he/she produces sounds and by checking the movement and strength of the child’s lips, tongue and jaw.
It is important to ensure that the child’s hearing has been checked and that there is no hearing impairment. Hearing impairments affect the way a child perceives and produces speech sounds.

Speech sound disorders - breakdown of

Speech therapy and tips for parents

Speech therapy sessions can be beneficial for the child to learn to say the sounds correctly.
Treatment approach (i.e. method) and targets (i.e. the speech sounds to work on) are dependent on
several factors such as the type of speech sound disorder and child factors (e.g. error patterns,
relevance to child and family, etc.).

Often treatment includes:

 Learning to differentiate speech sounds

 Learning to produce the speech sounds correctly

 Learning to produce the speech sounds in words, sentences and conversations


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How can parents help their children with speech sound disorders?

 Model – Always model the words for by exaggerating the sounds that the child is
mispronouncing (e.g. sssssnake) but do not expect the child to repeat the word. Provide clear model by emphasizing the sound that child is mispronouncing

 Visual feedback – Stand in front of a mirror or use the internal camera function on the phone
and model the word. Allow the child to see how the adult moves their articulators (tongue, lips, jaw) and compare it to their own

 Story time – Look for words with the sounds that child has difficulty producing and emphasize
the sound in the words (e.g. “s” sound – snake, slither, hiss, scared). Provides opportunity for child to be bombarded with that sound that he/she has trouble producing

 “I spy” game – Play “I spy” games with using the sounds that child has difficulty producing
(e.g. find words starting with “s” sound” – I spy something that is yellow, hot and in the sky –Sun). 

 Playdoh – Roll the play dough into shapes that start with the sounds that child has difficulty
producing (e.g. Roll playdoh into long and short snakes and make hissing sound)