Encourage Speech Sounds Through Reading


Posted by Emily K. Hulse

A great way to encourage a child to pronounce sounds correctly is to expose him/her to early developing speech sounds before he/she can even talk by reading books loaded with these sounds.

Speech therapists commonly use a strategy with children with articulation and phonological disorders called “auditory bombardment.” This technique repeatedly exposes the child to the correct production of mispronounced sounds. This increases the child’s ability to hear incorrect sounds in his/her own speech.

Early developing sounds include p, b, t, d, k, g, and m. Often children will naturally omit these sounds from the ends of words or in the middle of multi-syllabic words. This is a common pattern in articulatory development. Just provide a good speech model by over-emphasizing the target sound. Below is an example of a book that includes many early developing sounds. The number of times a sound occurs is listed under the book.

Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss:
p – 19
m – 20
g – 7
d – 25
b – 15
k – 32
t – 50

Reading sound-filled books to your child when he/she is a baby increases sound production and the opportunity to hear early developing sounds pronounced correctly. Before bedtime tonight, snuggle up next to your child and read a book!

Practice Language Skills in the Car!

You’re about to set off on a road trip. While you’re eagerly anticipating that perfect vacation getaway, you have hours in a crowded car standing between you and your destination. The car is a great place to practice speech/language skills and strategies. Whether it’s a long or short car ride, take advantage of time spent in the car by playing some fun, language-based games!

Here are some ideas:

Categories: To play this game, one player chooses a category, such as “animals.” Every player takes a turn naming an item in the category. If a player repeats a word or is unable to name a word in the category, he/she is out. Play continues until one player remains and wins the game. To make this task more complex, have the child add more descriptive words to the category (e.g., animals with tails, animals that live in the zoo) or name animals alphabetically (eg., aardvark, bear, cat, dog, etc.).

Rhyme Time: To practice phonological awareness skills, children can practice creating rhymes for things they see from the car window or in the environment around them. For example, if a child chooses the word “tree,” other players must name some rhyming words (e.g., knee, see, me). The player who gives the most rhymes is the winner! As an added bonus, players can create rhymes using nonsense words (e.g., slee, dree). Other players take turns identifying whether the rhyming word is a real word or a nonsense word.

Cities and Syllables: As you pass through different towns, cities, or states, children can practice counting the number of syllables in that city or state’s name. For example, when passing through Idaho, the child counts or claps out three syllables. When passing through Tallahassee, the child counts/claps out four syllables. In a variation of this game, a parent chooses a particular number of syllables. Players look for words in the environment (e.g., road signs, billboards) that contain the specified number of syllables. Each player earns a point for finding a word. The player with the most points wins!

Guess It: Players take turns describing familiar items or objects (e.g., car, apple, baby). The first player chooses an object and gives three clues to describe it. All of the other players take turns guessing what the first player is describing (e.g., It is a fruit; it can be red or green; it grows on a tree). If no players guess correctly, the first player provides another clue about the object. The player who correctly identifies the mystery object earns a point and chooses the next word to describe.

Showtime: Choose age-appropriate DVDs to show children in the car. As the movie or program plays, pause the film to ask questions, such as:

Who is that character?

What do you think is going to happen next?

Where does this story take place?

When does this story take place?

How does this character feel? Why? How can you tell? When was a time that you felt that way?

Who is your favorite character? Why?

What was your favorite part of the movie? Why?

At the end of the film, have the child retell the story to another person in the car. The story should include characters, settings, chronological events, and a conclusion. Encourage the child to produce a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Apps: Educational apps that help children practice language skills are available for tablets or smartphones. Apps like Super Duper’s StoryMaker are interactive and engaging. Apps can address several domains of language: grammar, vocabulary, and social skills.

The suggested games above are great for turning a long car ride into a fun and learning experience! Playing games during long trips is a great way to expand and reinforce language skills.

A Fun Way to Practice Articulation Skills at Home!


Written by Emily K. Hulse

Many household games can be useful in practicing speech sounds. The game Hedbanz is the goofy quick-question game of “What Am I?” Players wear a “picture card” in their headband, and then quickly ask questions to figure out what they are. The age range appropriate for this game is 6+ years. Hedbanz is an excellent game to use at home to practice articulation skills. Instead of using the cards that come with the game, make personalized articulation cards! For an example, if your child is having difficulties with the -sh sound, create “what am I cards” that start and end with that sound. This would be a fun way to practice with your child at home! This game focuses on vocabulary, semantics (word meaning), and syntax. This game also focuses on item description, auditory recall and synthesis, and question formation and answering. Can you think of other games you can use with your child to practice speech?

Does Treatment Time Affect SLP Outcomes in Preschoolers?

kids hug

Written by Emily K. Hulse

Are you wondering if treatment time affects outcomes in preschoolers? The answer is yes! Speech Language Pathologists collect data to determine what factors may affect progress in preschoolers and to rate children’s speech and language skills. The data collected indicates that the outcomes children achieve vary with the amount of treatment they receive. More treatment time is associated with better outcomes for children! Treatment time, service delivery model, and completion of a structured home program appears to be key elements associated with articulation progress. Data proves that preschoolers who participate in 10+ hours of individual treatment and a successful completion of a structured home program are making the best progress (91%). Call and schedule an evaluation with us today!

Why is play so important for language development?

As a speech therapist, I get to play with kids and toys all day. Part of my routine evaluation of children 3 and under is to assess their play skills. Below are some play skill milestones that you can use to decide if your child is developing normal play skills.

0-24 months: Solitary Play. Plays alone without concern for activities of others around him; minimal attention to other children in the area.

24-34 months: Parallel Play. Plays beside children rather than with other children., usually with similar toys/materials; somewhat attentive to others.

30-36 months: Associative Play. Plays with other children, such as sharing toys and talking about the play activities, even though agendas may be different.

36-48 months: Cooperative Play. Plays with children in an organized fashion toward a common goal.

3-5 years: Rough and Tumble Play. Boisterous and physical activity done in a playful manner.

3-5 years: Games with rules. Participates in an activity with accepted rules or limits; displays shared expectations and a willingness to conform to agreed upon procedures; preset standard game or made up game.

Play skills are crucial to social and language development and should be fostered and developed. Atypical play behaviors include: no focus or intent; stares blankly; wanders with no purpose, attached to unusual object, perseverates on certain objects, lines up toys, focuses on parts of objects. If you notice your child is exhibiting some atypical play behaviors it may be time for a speech and language evaluation. Play skills are the way we learn to socialize with our peers and they must be addressed like any other developmental delay.

Parental Tips

As a family centered clinician,  I rarely take credit for my client’s progress.  I know that it is what parents practice at home every day that helps the child reach their goals.
Today I decided to ask parents of my clients who have made rapid progress toward their speech therapy goals to tell me their secrets.  What do they do at home that helps their child make progress so quickly?

Here are some of their tips:

  1. Set aside 20-30 min everyday at the same time to work on therapy goals
  2. Take advantage of every opportunity that arises to practice a goal, whether in the car, at a stop light, or at the park
  3. Involve everyone in the family, including Grandma! This helps goals generalize into new settings and with new communication partners. The more people that are helping your child with his goals, the faster he will achieve them.
  4. Use siblings as a model during games.
  5. Keep it positive. Take a break if the child becomes frustrated
  6. Never show frustration
  7. Keep praise specific- “good try” vs. “That’s right!”
  8. Use a reward system
  9. Practice goals in different ways. This facilitates carryover.

Step Away From the Sippy Cups!

As an SLP who treats babies with feeding challenges, I frequently hear from parents how excited they are to begin teaching their baby to use a sippy cup.  Problem is, those sippy cups seem to linger through preschool.
Parents often view it as a developmental milestone, when in fact it was invented simply to keep the floor clean and was never designed for developing oral motor skills.  Sippy cups were invented for parents, not for kids.  The next transition from breast and/or bottle is to learn to drink from an open cup held by an adult in order to limit spills or to learn to drink from a straw cup.

Once a child transitions to a cup with a straw, I suggest cutting down the straw so that the child can just get his lips around it, but can’t anchor his tongue underneath it.   That’s my issue with the sippy-cup: It continues to promote the anterior-posterior movement of the tongue,  characteristic of a suckle-like pattern that infants use for breast or bottle feeding.  Sippy cups limit the child’s ability to develop a more mature swallowing pattern, especially  with continued use after the first year.  The spout blocks the tongue tip from rising up to the alveolar ridge just above the front teeth and forces the child to continue to push his tongue forward and back as he sucks on the spout to extract the juice.

Discontinue use of the sippy cup if the child is over 10 months.  Allow your child to develop the next milestone by mastering a mature swallow pattern.  That is, unless you want to go to an orthodontist and speech language pathologist!