Saying sounds correctly or articulating is a common challenge experienced by young children. It is also sometimes seen in adults – usually following some kind of neurological incidence like a stroke. Some causes for articulation problems are 1. experiencing hearing loss (i.e. ear infections) during language development and 2. medical conditions (i.e. cerebral palsy, stroke) which result in difficulty controlling muscles when moving articulators (tongue, jaw, larynx) to say sounds and words.
There are situations where individuals with an articulation disorder will require intensive therapy to develop language abilities. However there are many instances where a child or adult with a mild to moderate articulation problem can benefit greatly from assistance from loved ones.
Here are some ways parents and families of those experiencing articulatory difficulty can help:
1. Observe and write down the 2 sounds (e.g. ‘s’ in the word “son” & ‘t’ in “two”) that make the individual the hardest to understand or most unintelligible.
2. Start with the sound that make the individual most inintelligible and sit down face to face with the individual. See if they can imitate you when you say the sound correctly.
3. Get 5 pictures where the observed sound is in the beginning of the word (e.g. Sun, son, soup etc.). Practice saying those words correctly.
4. Play games like memory with the words in step 3 and try to create sentences with words once a match is made.
5. Visit places like fast food restaurants and have the individual correctly name all foods whose name begin with the observed sound.
6. Have the individual listen to a story where the observed sound is found many times and have him or her retell the story with correct pronunciation.
7. Once the individual is producing the observed sound correctly at beginning of words move on to pictures where the observed sound is in the middle and end of the word (e.g. castle, whistle, bus). Do steps 4-6 (except the observed sound will be in the middle and end of the word).
8. Work with the individual for at least 30 minutes – 5 days a week and there should be considerable improvement seen.
9. Once the individual has shown consistently correct pronunciation of first sound – move on to the 2nd sound that make the makes the individual difficult to understand. Perform steps 3-8.
10. Finally, if none of the suggested steps seem to be working – It would be time to visit a Speech-Language clinician who can do comprehensive analysis of child or adult’s sound production system as well as other factors that may be undermining success.