Probably the first thing that comes to mind when you hear speech therapist is “kids who can’t say their sounds.”

I do work with speech sounds sometimes (although I also work on so much more!) but let’s start there. There are some kids who, usually for unknown reasons, can’t figure out how to make certain sounds when they talk. Sometimes teachers or parents will describe them as sounding “like they have marbles in their mouth” or the child’s speech can be unintelligible and you can’t understand anything! It is common for parents to understand their children better than other people, because they are used to the specific way that their child talks.

When a child has trouble being understood, it can be very frustrating both for the child and for their parents, teachers, and friends. Children can develop behavior problems (acting out, tantrums, hitting, etc) which are related to their frustration at not being able to say what they are thinking. As children get older, they become more aware of how they compare to other children around them, and can become self-conscious and be reluctant to talk in class or to their friends.

If this describes your child, then speech therapy may be able to help. Speech therapy is available at every public school for children who need it. You can also go to private speech therapy clinics or hospitals, depending on your needs. Speech therapy is usually covered by insurance for young children, so check your policy if you are unsure or interested.

How do we fix it?

Articulation therapy helps kids to learn and use new speech sounds so they can be understood when they talk, and sound more “grown up.” Talking “like a baby” is cute when kids are small, but can lead to problems with reading and spelling later on in school, as well as social difficulties with other kids or issues with self-esteem.

A speech therapist will work with you to identify which sounds your child has difficulty producing, and will work with your child to teach them how to make those sounds. We usually start working on sounds by themselves, then move to sounds at the beginning, middle, or end of words, using those sounds in sentences, and then using those same sounds in conversation. Each level is more challenging – it is easier to make an ‘s’ sound by itself than it is to say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”

Home practice

Once your student can make the sounds independently, the speech therapist may start sending home practice sheets for you to do with your child. Home practice makes a HUGE difference in how fast therapy can progress.The speech therapist sees your child once or twice a week, but you see your child every day!

The best advice for home practice is:

  1. Make it frequent (daily!)
  2. Make it short (5 min or less)

If you ever have any questions about your child’s speech development, don’t hesitate to call your local speech therapist and ask!