Updated: Dec 6, 2022
The traditional articulation therapy approach is most recommended for younger children who are exhibiting a few speech sound errors. Children who are exhibiting speech sound errors that are relatively developmental in nature are good candidates for using this approach.
Step 1: Isolate
The initial stage of articulation therapy involves practicing the production of individual sounds. For instance, if your child has difficulty with the /f/ sound, the speech and language therapist will demonstrate the correct production of the sound and practice saying it repeatedly with your child.
The therapist will focus on sounds that are age-appropriate for your child. For example, if your child is 3 years old and struggles to produce the R sound, it is unlikely that the therapist will work on this sound with them as it is typically mastered by children at a later age (around 6 years old). Refer to our Speech Sound Development Chart for more information on the typical ages at which children learn to produce different sounds accurately. Once your child is able to produce the target sound(s) in isolation with high accuracy (80% approx), they are ready for the next step in articulation therapy.
Step 2: Syllables
The second step in articulation therapy is practicing the target sound in syllables, which are made up of a consonant and a vowel. For example, if the target sound is /t/, the therapist would add vowels to the end of the sound to make syllables such as 'ta', 'to', 'ti', 'te', and 'tu'. To practice the target sound in the middle of words, vowels would be added before and after it, such as in 'otu'. To practice the target sound at the end of words, the vowel would be placed at the beginning, making syllables such as 'ut', 'at', and 'ot'. The therapist may use picture materials with real words to help the child practice. When the child is able to produce the target sound in syllables accurately, they can move on to the next step.
Step 3: Words
The next step in articulation therapy is practicing the target sound in words. This typically involves practicing the sound at the beginning, middle, and end of words. For example, if the target sound is /t/, some words to practice might include "toys," "guitar," and "feet."
Some speech therapists may choose to focus on one position in words at a time. For instance, if they start with the initial position, they will continue to practice the sound in that position at phrase and sentence levels until the child can produce the sound with around 80% accuracy. Other therapists may practice the sound in all positions before moving on to the next step.
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Step 4: Phrases and Sentences
The next step in articulation therapy is to practice the target sound in phrases and sentences. A phrase is a short sentence. Children, especially younger children, often find it easier to start with a carrier phrase, such as "I see a...", "Look at the...", or "I have a...", with only the target word changing. Unique sentences that include multiple target words (words that have the target sound) provide opportunities for the child to practice the target sound in different positions. Examples of unique sentences with at least three target words with the /b/ sound in the initial position include:
"Bella is a beautiful baby girl"
"This is the best bacon in Baltimore"
"Ben gave the bag to Bonnie"
When a child can accurately say the target sound in words within unique sentences with at least 80% accuracy, it is time to move on to the next step.
Step 5: Stories
The next step in articulation therapy is practising the target sound in stories. This can be done by reading the same story with a child multiple times, until they can accurately say the target words with at least 80% accuracy. Older children can read the story themselves, while younger children may benefit from hearing an adult read the story and emphasise the target sounds.
Once the child can accurately produce the target sound in words when retelling a story, and if they have mastered the sound in each sound position (initial, medial, and final) in words, sentences, and stories, they are ready to move on to conversation practice.
Step 6: Conversation
In step 6 of articulation therapy, the therapist will have normal conversations with your child while monitoring their consistency with the target sound. At home, you can help improve your child's speech sound production by subtly correcting their errors during conversation. To do this, simply repeat the word with the target sound correctly, emphasising the sound as you say it. This will help your child learn to produce the sound correctly without feeling self-conscious or discouraged. If your child is still making frequent errors, let their therapist know as they may need further practice at the sentence level. Remember to be patient, as it takes time and practice for a child to go from saying a sound correctly in isolation to saying it correctly in conversation.
Step 7: Generalisation
The final step in the articulation therapy process is generalisation. Once a child has mastered a target sound in words, phrases, sentences, stories, and conversation, it is time to watch for carryover in daily speech across all contexts (e.g. in the car, at mealtime, at the playground, at the movies). If you notice that the target sound is not being produced accurately in daily speech, let their speech and language therapist know. They may need additional practice at the conversation or sentence level.
Progression Through the 7 Steps of Articulation Therapy
It is important to note that not all children will progress through these steps at the same rate. Some may move quickly from one step to the next, while others may need more time and practice at each step. It is also important to keep in mind that articulation therapy is not a quick fix – it takes time and consistent practice to make progress.
One way to make articulation therapy more fun and engaging for children is by using games and activities the Articulation Arcade app provides a variety of fun and engaging games that can be used during articulation therapy. The app includes games such as Four in a Row, Bingo, Spin the Wheel, Scratchcards, and Memory, all of which are designed to help children practice their target sounds.
In conclusion, the traditional articulation therapy approach is a proven method for helping children with a few speech sound errors. By starting with isolation and moving through the steps of syllables, words, phrases, and sentences, children can learn to produce the target sounds correctly and improve their overall speech. Using fun and engaging activities, such as those provided in Articulation Arcade, can make the therapy process more enjoyable and effective.