Phonology and articulation are terms used to describe a child’s sound production of consonants and vowels in words.

We produce sounds by moving our articulators (tongue, lips and teeth) into various positions. We also change the airflow for some sounds, turn our voice on or off and move our soft palate up or down. By various ages, children are expected to have mastered sounds in their system Eg. By 3 years of age, a child should be accurately producing m, n, p, b, t, d, h, w, g and k.

Some children have difficulty producing certain sounds and may:

  • Omit sounds eg. ouse/house
  • Substitute sounds eg. tat/cat
  • Distort sounds eg. placing tongue between teeth for ‘s’ instead of just behind the top teeth
  • Add sounds eg. balue/blue
  • Reduce longer words eg. nana/banana
  • Have difficulty with producing sounds clearly in sentences in conversation
This may be caused by:
  • Hearing impairment
  • Developmental delay
  • Speech delay
  • Phonological delay/disorder
  • Structural abnormalities (eg. cleft palate)
  • Motor Planning difficulties (eg. CAS – Childhood Apraxia of Speech)
We can help these children/students by:
  • Modelling clearly to them how to produce a sound (showing where our tongue, lips and teeth should be), and perhaps using a mirror to show them how to position their articulations for a sound)
  • Praising all attempts that the child makes to say the sound
  • Providing opportunities for lots of practice
  • Implementing early intervention – the earlier the sounds are remediated, the less likely the articulation/phonological problem may impair their early phonological awareness skills.
  • Research suggests that children with speech disorders are more likely to develop reading and spelling difficulties
If it is difficult to understand what they are communicating:
  • Offer them a choice eg. “Do you want a biscuit or a muesli bar?” This makes it easier to work out which word they are saying
  • Ask a yes/no question eg. “Did you go to the beach on Saturday?”
  • Ask the child to show you what you are talking about/describing
  • Acknowledge that you are having difficulties understanding their words but will come back to it, eg. “We will ask your teacher about that tomorrow”
  • Introduce a visual communication system (pictures, photos, signs/gestures) to support and clarify the child’s communication attempts
  • Encourage them not to rush but to take time to say words clearly

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