How to support your child’s speech development

A child’s speech development begins well before they start speaking in full sentences – being exposed to speech and language builds the foundation for expression and understanding in early development.

Phonology refers to the sounds we use during speech, including consonants and vowels. The quality of phonology may be affected by a range of factors, including phonological processes. Phonological processes are normal patterns that can impact young children’s developing speech. For example, it is very normal for a child below the age of five to say “wed” instead of ‘red’. These error processes can sometimes be persistent past the ages they are typically eliminated, which would be considered delayed or atypical.

Whether your child’s speech development is on track, or delays/disorders have been identified, below are some strategies that can support their developing speech sounds:

1. Recasting

Recasting means to repeat an utterance with an error to someone, but with the error corrected. If your child says a word incorrectly, recast it to them! For example, if your child says ‘pider’ instead of ‘spider’, you might repeat back to them “Oh yes, a spider, I see the spider too! That’s a big spider!”.

By doing this, you are providing an accurate and effective demonstration of the sounds or words your child is not yet producing correctly, without criticising or interrupting the conversation flow. Recasting should occur at a clear and slow speech rate and be carried out in a positive and natural way within conversation and interactions. Avoid repeating the error your child made back to them, as hearing the incorrect production of the sound will reinforce this way of saying it to them.

2. Visual access

Encourage your child to attend to your face so that they are able to see how you produce target sounds. Just as the movement of someone’s mouth can help us understand what they are saying, it can also support children when learning how to say different sounds. Additional support can be provided by using a mirror, allowing your child to receive visual feedback and develop awareness of the shape/movement of their mouth for different sounds.

3. Sound play and music

Engage your child in sound play – make animal or vehicle sounds while playing with toys or reading books and make ‘silly noises’ to practice sounds together (e.g., siren noises for ambulance, ‘shh’ for spraying/running water).

Singing, nursery rhymes and exaggerated prosody (emphasis on target sounds and singsong voice) can be useful and enjoyable strategies to develop speech.

4. Scrapbooking and sound boxes

Developing scrapbooks or boxes of items ‘collecting’ words with specific speech targets (e.g. things that start with /k/, multisyllabic words, etc.) can be a good way to practice and elicit sounds you want to work on in a fun and engaging way!

If you have ongoing concerns about your child’s speech and language development, it is recommended to consult a Speech Pathologist.

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