Speech issues are a very common problem for young children. It’s so common, in fact, that most public schools have speech teachers permanently on staff. Most kids will struggle with some words. Others will struggle with many of them.
It’s easy for parents to feel helpless in this. Fortunately, there are many simple, straightforward ways to help your child overcome their struggles. In this article, we look at a few simple steps you can take to assist your child with their speech skills.
Ear Nose and Throat
Did you misspell “speech pathologist”?
No! Well, yes. But Grammarly caught it. Here’s the deal. Many kids — particularly young kids struggle with speech because they have hearing problems. Often, these are temporary issues. Something they will outgrow around the age of five.
That’s around the cut of age for chronic ear fluid and infections. While occasional ear fluid buildup is normal for young children, it can become chronic for some people if it happens to be that the shape of their ear is more conducive to pour drainage. An ear nose and throat doctor will be able to assess the situation and present you with your options.
Be Very Deliberate and Careful with Your Own Speech
Another word for this is “modeling.” Essentially, you make a point of using the words that your child struggles with in conversation with them. They hear the pronunciation, but nothing is asked of them. They don’t have to repeat the phrase, or even dwell on the fact that it is a word they aren’t good at.
Modeling is particularly effective if you can integrate it into something your child enjoys. Playtime. A board game. A nature walk. The more positive associations you can help your child draw for speech skills, the faster they will learn.
Don’t Imitate the Mistakes
It happens so much more than you might at first think. Sometimes it’s accidental. When you spend the majority of your time around kids, it’s not so long before you start talking like them. Other times, it becomes cute shorthand for your family.
Little Henry says “sink,” instead of think, so pretty soon everyone in the house is saying it. Because it’s cute. Because every day he gets a little bit bigger and smarter and more grown up and isn’t it nice to hold onto things for just a little bit longer?
That’s good fun for everyone else, but little Henry isn’t learning, is he? Be conscious of how you and your family members speak around the house. Baby talk doesn’t get anyone anywhere.
Boy, once you have a kid they start pushing books at you from every direction, huh? To be fair, there’s a lot of research supporting the benefits of regular storytime for children. Kids whose parents read with them regularly tend to pick literacy skills up quickly during their school education.
They have a bigger vocabulary. Close bonds with the people who read to them. And yes, they also tend to have strong speech skills. The reason is pretty straightforward. Reading introduces kids to words by the hundreds, or even by the thousands depending on the book.
Unlike other forms of communication, it is a time when the children’s only job is to listen to the words and think about them. This can significantly improve pronunciation over time.
Narrate Your Life
This may feel awkward at first. “I’m folding the towels. I’m making your lunch. I’m cleaning up another spill. Oh! Two spills. Someone was busy this morning, weren’t they?” But after a few days, it will feel natural.
Why do this? Well, like so many of the other suggestions on this list, it’s all about exposure to words. What they mean. How to say them. Not only does your child have a refresher course on various pronunciations and definitions, but they get this exposure in fresh contexts. This is helpful in its own right, making them more adaptable with their speech and language skills.
Practice Words They Aren’t Good At
An obvious but all too important suggestion. Repetition is key. The more often you practice hard words, the quicker your child will get the hang of them. It can help to practice words in their actual context as much as possible.
The more abstract a word feels to the child, the harder it will be for them to get it right. By allowing them to interact with the place or object that they struggle to pronounce, you increase the odds that they will being to get the word right.
Practice Words They Are Good At
Pronouncing words that your child is good at does two things. First, it helps ensure that they will remain good at them. Backtracking is frustrating for you and the child, but routinely brushing up on words can help prevent that from happening.
It also provides them with a sense of accomplishment. If you only practice the words they are bad at, your practice sessions will be filled with frustration and disappointment. It won’t take long at all for the child to associate speech practice with negative feelings and begin to disengage.
Practicing words they are good at gives them the chance to feel triumphant, which may give them the momentum they need to work through more challenging words.
Revision is sort of a rapid-fire practice session. Your child says a word wrong. You say the word correctly so that they are aware of the mistake, and have the chance to hear the correct pronunciation. It’s a quick and effective way to ingrain speech skills for your child.
However,r there are limitations to the efficacy of this technique. The occasional revision is helpful. However, if you are revising every other phrase they use, it will probably feel a lot like criticism. Your child may grow discouraged and avoid using the words they struggle with at all.
Like any parenting technique, success will come from evaluating your child’s strengths and weaknesses and deciding what technique will work best for them.