By Emily Bess, M.A., CCC-SLP
Have you ever been speaking to your child and thought to yourself, ‘What in the world did he just say?’
Articulation refers to the forming of clear and distinct sounds in speech and is a very common area of difficulty for many children today. For some children, it’s just a few sounds that are tricky and they can eventually grow out of these speech errors on their own as they get older. For others, there’s a lot of sounds that are said in error and it can be really hard to understand what is said no matter how hard they try. Frustration can often build up from having difficulty being understood and with it, negative behaviors.
Each sound has an age when it is typically mastered, or produced correctly about 80% of the time. All sounds are produced by the tongue, teeth, and lips going into a certain position and allowing air to come through them and be ‘adjusted’ before coming out of the mouth. Some sounds are produced in a more simple manner, and so they are expected to develop in younger children. Other sounds’ formations are more challenging to line up in the mouth, and so they are not expected to be made naturally until a child is a bit older. Below are the common ages in which each sound is typically mastered.
Speech Sound Ages of Development
Age 3: M, P, B, H, W, N
Age 4: F, T, K, G, Y, D
Age 5: J, SH, CH
Age 6: L, V, S, -ing, S blends, L blends
Age 7: TH, Z
Age 8: R, R blends
There are many techniques out there to help a child be able to move their teeth, lips, and tongue into the correct place to make various sounds. While some, including manually moving the tongue, teeth, and lips into place with tongue depressors or gloved hands, should only be used by a certified SLP, there are many that can be used to practice at home.
Speech Sound Strategies at Home
K, G: Practice coughing to feel where the tongue goes and laying down looking up at the ceiling to make placement easier while saying ‘Uh-KA’ and ‘Uh-GA’
M, P, B: Practice rubbing lips together and moving them together and apart rapidly before adding sound. Practice the sounds at the end of words like ‘Uh-PA’ ‘Uh-BA’ and ‘Uh-MMM’
T, D, N: Practice putting tongue right behind top teeth and then bringing tongue down with a snap. If an N sound can be produced, plug the nose while trying to say an N sound
F, V: Practice the placement by biting down on the bottom lip and then add air through lightly blowing through the top teeth
S, Z: Practice by smiling then blowing air through the teeth while moving the tongue to the middle of the mouth. Keep the teeth together to avoid the tongue coming forward or air escaping through the sides of the mouth
L: Practice by raising the tongue to cover the upper front teeth. Practice the L at the end of words like ‘Ah-LA’
J, CH: Practice by putting tongue right behind upper teeth and forming an O. Practice the sounds at the end of words like ‘Oh-JA’ and ‘Oh-CHA’
SH: Practice by blowing hard air out through your mouth forming an O. Then, move the tongue up and forward in the middle of your mouth
TH: Practice by sticking out tongue and gently biting down, then blow air out through teeth.
R: Practice by saying CARLA to make a circle with the tongue. Practice all the forms of R: Or, Ar, Air, Ire, Ear, Er – most everyone can do one of these and then practicing that placement can help carryover a good R to other forms.
Though there are several go-to methods to start with, I have always held the belief that speech sound treatment should be individualized for each child to really take into account what they specifically can and cannot do. Doing so could potentially save a lot of time and frustration. This would be when a Speech-Language Pathologist could come in handy. Never hesitate to share your concerns and what you have been hearing at home.