Speech Therapy for Articulation and Techniques and Strategies

Speech Therapy for Articulation and Techniques and Strategies

Articulation therapy centres on the enunciation of words and speech. It concentrates on an individual’s capacity to manipulate their lips, teeth, tongue, and oral cavity to generate clear and intelligible words and speech sounds. Articulation strategies and techniques can be practiced to develop this ability. Articulation for speech and language therapy can immensely help your child if he/she have problems with articulation or pronunciation. 

The initial step in the process is for the Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) to gain an understanding of your child’s speech capabilities, identifying both the sounds they can articulate effectively and those they struggle with. This assessment serves to pinpoint the specific articulation disorder present. It’s important to note that some speech sounds may not fully develop in children until around the age of 5, such as the ‘R’ sound, and this natural variation is considered. During the assessment, SLPs perform a screening to determine which sounds require attention and where in words the errors tend to occur – whether at the beginning, middle, or end. They also assess the nature of the speech patterns, such as whether the child is omitting the sound entirely, attempting to produce it but with distortion or unclear pronunciation, or substituting it with another sound. Additionally, SLPs can offer insights into your child’s progress compared to peers and identify specific problematic sounds and offer articulation strategies and techniques to practice with the child.


Children with articulation challenges may exhibit one or more of the following types of errors:

  • Omission: This occurs when a child leaves out certain sounds in their speech, such as never using “sc” in “school” or “scratch.”
  • Addition: In this case, the child adds sounds or syllables that aren’t typically present in words, like saying “puh-lease” instead of “please.”
  • Substitution: Children may replace one sound with another, such as using “s” instead of “th” or substituting “w” for “r.”
  • Distortion: This involves altering a sound, which might resemble a lisp, such as when “s” sounds like “th.”


When a child is self-conscious about their articulation difficulties, they may exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Avoid speaking loudly or engaging in conversations with others.
  • Become more reserved or excessively shy.
  • Experience frustration during communication.
  • Cease using phrases or words they find challenging altogether.
  • Struggle with self-confidence and self-esteem issues.

Addressing these articulation challenges through therapy can help children improve their speech clarity and confidence. 


Levels of Articulation Issues

Kids with articulation problems will usually begin at the syllable level and develop to the connected speech level. 


Initially, it’s crucial for the child to develop the ability to produce the targeted sound accurately. The syllable level represents the initial phase in this process, as it removes the complexity of other speech demands. To illustrate, if the child is working on the ‘b’ sound, the therapy typically commences with syllables like ‘ab’ or ‘ba.’ Once the child can consistently articulate the sound within these isolated syllables, the next progression is to move on to the word level. This sequential approach allows for gradual and structured development of the child’s speech skills. 


Following successful practice at the syllable level, the next step involves honing the child’s ability to produce the target sound within words. For instance, if we take the letter ‘b’ as our example, the child will work on words like “bag,” “bottle,” and “bath.” Crucially, this practice encompasses saying the sound repetitively in various positions within words – the initial (beginning), medial (middle), and final (end) positions. This comprehensive approach recognizes that articulating sounds correctly involves the coordinated movement of the tongue, teeth, jaws, lips, and vocal cords, which can vary depending on a sound’s position within a word. Once the child can consistently use the sound in words, the next progression involves practicing it at the sentence level. This step ensures a gradual and thorough development of the child’s speech skills.


The next crucial stage in the process is enabling the child to incorporate the target sound into sentences. For instance, they would work on constructing sentences like “I have a bag.” This level of practice can pose challenges, as it requires the child’s brain to simultaneously remember how to produce the sound correctly while processing the additional demands of constructing complete sentences and using language effectively. It represents a significant milestone in speech therapy, as it involves not only sound articulation but also the integration of speech into meaningful communication contexts.


This final step marks the culmination of the process, where the child should have acquired the ability to utilize the target sound accurately within the context of a conversation. At this stage, the goal is for the child to seamlessly integrate the correct sound production into their everyday speech, demonstrating mastery of the sound and its application in real-life communication situations. This achievement reflects a successful outcome in speech therapy, as the child can now use the target sound effectively in natural conversations.  


Articulation Strategies and Techniques

Here are articulation techniques and strategies to consider when working on specific speech sounds:

  • Visual Models: Ensure that your child watches your face when you pronounce a word with the target sound. Observing how a sound is physically produced can be beneficial.
  • Verbal Models: Describe how to make a particular sound. Your speech therapist can provide descriptions for sounds, including place of articulation and you show the child where in the mouth the sound is formed. For example, ‘f’ is a lip sound. Then there is manner of articulation, where you describe how to make the sound, such as ‘pop’ your lips for ‘p.’
  • Tactile Models: If possible, tap your face or mouth where the sound is produced to help the child ‘feel’ the sound.
  • Start Simple: When working on a specific sound, begin by practicing it in isolation (only the sound), then progress to syllables, words, and beyond. Most sounds occur in the beginning, middle, or end of words, and a speech therapist can identify where your child is encountering difficulty.
  • Auditory Bombardment: Provide your child with exposure to correct sound models by reading aloud from a list of words containing the target sound. This can be done during quiet activities like colouring or drawing, and it helps the child become more familiar with the sound without overemphasizing it.
  • Sound of the Week: Choose a specific sound that your child is working on and focus on it for an entire week. Engage in various activities that center around practicing that sound.


Remember that these are just a few strategies, and if one doesn’t yield the desired results, don’t hesitate to try another approach. Your speech-language pathologist can offer additional strategies and guidance tailored to your child’s specific needs and progress.


Will speech errors go away on their own?

The recommendation for articulation for speech and language therapy hinges on two key factors: the severity of your child’s speech errors and their age. Depending on these factors, articulation therapy may or may not be advised. To make an informed decision, a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) should perform a comprehensive speech language evaluation. If the evaluation reveals that your child’s speech difficulties are not developmentally appropriate and are unlikely to naturally resolve, then articulation therapy is typically recommended. This therapy aims to provide the necessary support and intervention to address and improve the child’s speech sound production through articulation techniques and strategies.


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