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How To Correct Your Child's Speech

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

Supporting Children with Speech Sound Difficulties - parent tips

It can be hard for parents to know how to support a child with speech sound difficulties. They will often understand their child's speech better than people who see the child less often. However, sometimes they may also really struggle to understand what their child is saying. This can lead to feelings of worry, frustration and even embarrassment.

In this blog post, we outline some ways that parents can support a child with speech sound difficulties. Before we do that, lets quickly discuss speech sound difficulties and a speech delay vs a speech disorder.

What are Speech Sound Difficulties?

When children are learning to talk, they gradually learn to say different speech sounds. It is normal for a child to make speech sound errors when they are learning. There is in fact a pattern of speech sound errors that all typically developing children make.

Children are however expected to master different speech sounds by a certain age. A child’s speech may be delayed for their age, or it may be disordered. For more information on typical speech sound development, please read our blog post on the topic.

What is a Speech Delay?

A child who has delayed speech or a speech sound delay may be following typical speech sound developmental patterns, but they are making those errors beyond the average age that is expected.

What is a Speech Disorder?

A child who has disordered speech or a speech sound disorder is making speech sound errors that do not follow a typical developmental pattern, or they may be making a wide range of speech sound errors that result in their speech being difficult to understand.

Tips on how to support a child with speech sound difficulties

* We hope that you find our tips helpful. Please note that if you do have concerns about your child's speech, it is important that you seek the guidance of a speech language pathologist/speech and language therapist.

1) Give a good model

If your child makes a speech sound error when saying a word, try not to directly tell them that they have made an error. Avoid saying things such as "No, that's the right, say that again ... don't say TAR say CAR.". Instead, give a good model by repeating the word and emphasising the correct speech sound with your voice by making it a bit longer. Try to repeat the word a few times in short phrases.

Model the correct speech sound production in words

Child: Tar

Father: Car

Father: Yes, it is a Car

Father: A red Car

Modelling a word is usually most effective when you do it repetitively (see examples above of how you could model the word 'car').

Your child may need to hear you saying the word many times before they begin to say it correctly, but don't despair.

When you give your child a good model, they are listening to the correct pronunciation. You are indirectly correcting them but they are not under any pressure to repeat the word. They therefore won't feel as though they have done something wrong and lose confidence when speaking.

2) Have conversations in a context

supporting children with speech sound difficulties - talk during playtime and everyday routines
Set the context with playtime and everyday activities

Having more conversations in context will also give you more opportunities to model target words clearly for your child. When you talk about the here and now, it will usually be much easier to know what your child is saying. Playtime can provide lots of opportunities for this. There are also lots of everyday activities that can provide a context such as bath time, doing laundry, getting ready for bed. Remember to repeat words and emphasise the correct speech sounds if your child makes errors rather than telling them they have made an error.

3) Reduce questioning and make more comments

We naturally ask others questions to get them to talk. Many parents will ask their child questions for the same reason. Some parents find themselves asking questions to which they already know the answer. They often do this as they feel more comfortable if they know what their child may be saying. They may also do this as a means of checking that their child can say certain words.

While there are many reasons why parents find themselves asking their child lots of questions, it really is best to reduce questioning and to instead make comments about what your child is doing during an activity. How would you feel if you were asked tons of questions including questions the other person knows the answer to? It would probably make your feel under pressure, less interested and more reluctant to talk. It's the same for children, especially children who have speech sound difficulties.

When you make comments, you are showing an interest in what your child is doing and you are not placing them under any pressure to talk. In fact, your child will probably begin to talk more. Another benefit to making comments is that your child is hearing you say the words correctly. It is not realistic to completely avoid questions so a good aim is to make three comments for every question that you ask.

4) Encourage other means of getting the message across