Help For Children With Speech Pronunciation Difficulties
Parents all too often become concerned that their child’s pronunciation is not normal. Even though you’ve followed the advice about not overcorrecting your baby she may not be learning exact pronunciation as rapidly as you think she should. Lisping and other substitutions (wabbit for rabbit) sometimes seem they will never go away. But remember pronunciation is very difficult and a real struggle for a child. Lips, tongue and teeth all have to work together but if your child is able to suck, swallow and chew accurately (which is the primary function of the muscles and mechanisms we use to pronounce words) and is able to understand you and follow directions appropriate pronunciation will almost certainly occur.
It is best to look forward to the result of treatment rather than question why this has happened to your child (probably easier said than done). You’ll find that – as middleperson between expert and layperson - family and friends will look to you for understanding your child’s problem. A positive approach will help towards your acceptance of the child’s disability and this will be the most necessary emotional aspect of the relationship between you.
Always give the child time to speak. Don’t appear impatient or unwilling to wait for her to complete her thought. Don’t fill in the word for her or complete the thought – let her finish. Look at your child when she is communicating. This may be difficult for you especially if she is having problems with stammering, but it is necessary. Relax while she’s speaking to you and show her that she has time and so do you. And unless specifically requested to do so by the therapist never correct her speech efforts or allow anyone else to do so.
Even if you think your child will outgrow her disorder without the need for special help, following these rules will lessen the emotional tension you may feel.
Very often as great many worries and fears are based on myth rather than fact so take every opportunity to ask professionals about the particular type of problem your child has. Each problem has many different aspects and your understanding of these will go a long way towards alleviating your worries and concerns – and most importantly –towards helping your child.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Talk to your child not at her. ‘Did you like your dinner then?’ ‘Look at the rain. We’ll get wet.’ If there’s too much talk going on above her head she won’t be able to sort things out. As she becomes more able at communicating and using words, try not to answer your own questions: give her the chance to reply
- Keep your speech simple and short. Repeat a word several times but slowly and distinctly.
- Make sure your child can see your face as well as hear you. She needs to ‘see’ the sound you’re making.
- A new baby with a couple of older children may be bewildered by their expertise in language – half phrases, interruptions and so on. Try to see that the baby has some time with an adult for her own talk. But even quite young children, left alone with a baby, will modify their language to suit her: they will use simple words, repeat them , say them slowly ... just in the same way that an adult will
- Talk, play, chat, read, point – but don’t drown the baby in too much sound. Match your pace to his
- Use every opportunity that the day presents to help with sounds and – later – vocabulary. But talk about things he can see. At first, the abstract of ‘yesterday’ will mean nothing. Talk about what is happening now.
- Talk about things she likes to hear about. Going shopping, what he’s done today, what he had for dinner. Children love to have the story of what they have been doing during the day told back to them at night. It seems to fix the order of things more securely – gives them a pattern to their days
- Never mock or laugh at mispronunciation. It’s not necessary for you to repeat your child’s mistake and don’t hurt his feelings by turning it into a joke and telling everyone about it in his hearing. If she has taken a stab at a really difficult word, it could be best to praise her for attempting it, at the same time, bringing the word – correctly pronounced - into, your own sentence. ‘What funny chibleys,’ he may say. ‘Yes they are funny chimneys, aren’t they?’
- Don’t compare her progress with other children.
- Use everyday words frequently so that she learns them as she goes along. ‘Where’s the duster?’ rather than ‘where is it?’ ‘Is that the bell?’ rather than ‘what’s that?’
- Never frustrate her by withholding something because she’s not using the correct word.
- Be prepared for regressions into baby talk, sounds and noises if she’s tired or not well.
- Make words fun, singing, looking at books together. For a baby the best books have one picture and one word on each page.
- Expand her own words and interpret her needs. When she lifts her arms to be picked up and says ‘Up! Up! Say ‘Up comes Julie’ as you lift her. She won’t understand ‘me’ ‘you’, ‘they’ and all that for some time yet.
- When she’s at the ‘Why; stage, try to answer questions simply. ‘Why is tabby mewing?’ ‘Because she’s thirsty.’
- Be careful about correcting too much. If your child has struggled to express something and you correct the pronunciation, she may think you are questioning the statement not the word.
- Help your child to mix. Young children don’t play together so much as play side by side but they are learning to enjoy company and becoming used to others. Later this will help them learn to share and learn new words.
The points offered here are perhaps the ideals. Don’t beat yourself up if sometimes you fall short – life can get in the way, but ultimately your child’s needs must come first.