What can I do to help correct my child's speech? Some practical takeaways to help a speech error

How do you know what to do with a speech error?

In a previous article we discussed the difference between speech and language and how to spot potential difficulties with each. It can be hard to know what do when your child makes a speech error, do you ignore it so as not to draw attention to it? Or do you correct them? These are questions that parents often ask.  Here we will talk about how you can provide some feedback on your child’s speech while continuing to give them the confidence to say what they want to say.

5 ideas on how to give feedback to your child for a speech error

  • React to what your child says, not how they say it! In the end, it is the message that your child is attempting to pass that is most important. Most of the time, they will be unaware that they have made an error and it can get frustrating if they are being corrected while they are trying to tell you something. Offering feedback just a few times a day, rather than every time your child communicates with you will ensure that they remain confident communicators.

  • Model back the correct way of saying a word. For example, if your child says, ‘I love tarrots!’, repeat back to them ‘ yes, you love carrots’. This keeps the conversation going, acknowledges what they have said and offers invaluable listening practice for them.

  • Sometimes children can say the sounds they need for a word but when they put it together it will get mixed up. Tapping and clapping it out slowly can be lots of fun and really help with the clarity. For example, ‘pisghetti’. You can split this up in to three parts /spa/ /get/ /i/. Sometimes we can create images for this too for example the word ‘needle’ If a child needs some help with this you can point to your knee and some dill! Creating images will help them to say the word in the future and can be lots of fun! If you are a fan of catch phrase then you will enjoy this strategy!

  • When we learn, feedback is so very important. Without it we won’t know what we are doing that is not quite right and without constructive feedback it can be very hard to change our ways. This is the same for children when they make a speech error. So, finding ways to talk to your child about their speech in child friendly terms will give them the tools they need to start improving. This may be as simple as pointing out what you can see. For example, if your child says ‘s’ with their tongue outside their mouth, you can offer feedback by saying ‘I saw your tongue escape’, can you try that again with your tongue inside? Looking in a mirror together whilst doing this can be a great way to offer visual feedback too. Depending on what sound your child is working on, this feedback will change. If your child is seeing a Speech and Language Therapist, then talk about their speech sounds in the same way. For example, as /t/ is produced at the front of the mouth and /k/ is produced at the back, many Speech and Language therapists refer to the /t/ as the front sound and the /k/ as the back sound. If your child struggles to say /k/ but says /t/ instead, feedback might sound like this ‘Oh I heard your front sound, can you try again using your back sound? Depending on what stage your child is at in the learning process, they may need more practice listening to you produce both these sounds and telling you what they heard. It is important to make this a game as it may be something that your child will find very hard to start with. Take turns, make errors yourself and ask your child to listen and let you know when they hear a mistake.

  • One thing that both parents and professionals find hard is knowing what to do when they just don’t understand. Try not to pretend that you have understood. It is likely that children will know you haven’t. Instead ask more questions, get them to show you if they can and obtain more information. This normally helps to fill in any gaps and puts you both on the same page.

Remember than conversations are about messages and exchanging information. Encourage this as much as possible in the presence of speech errors whilst offering subtle and fun ways for your child to learn!

Written by Carolyn Fox, Children's Speech and Language Therapist

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