If your child has a few articulation errors, you can work on them at home. I recommend 10 minutes a day. Once your child can make the sound in isolation, create a target word list and practice, practice, practice. Initially words should be one-syllable. Once those are mastered, move to 2-syllable words, words with the target sound in the middle or end, and phrases. (If your child has multiple errors, is unintelligible or doesn’t make progress at home, consult an SLP).
Here are some of the tricks that I use to teach production of sounds in isolation:
/p/, /b/, /m/ These sounds are made by putting your lips together. Use the verbal cue “lips together”. Using flavored lip balm can increase the awareness of the lips. To strengthen the lip muscles, coat lips with lip balm and make kisses on a mirror or window. Practice holding a pencil, Popsicle stick or piece of thick paper between the lips for 15 seconds. Using a small straw and blowing a small whistle can be helpful. First words for practice: boo, bee, bay, bag, bean, bow, pea, pay, pat, pan, moo, moon, mug, mad, mow.
/d/, /t/, /n/ These sounds are made by putting the tip of the tongue on the alveolar ridge which is the bumpy part of the hard palate right behind the front teeth. The child needs to be able to elevate his tongue to make this sound. Licking peanut butter from a spoon, licking an ice cream cone, licking pudding from the top lip and holding small foods on the teeth using only the tongue are ways to work on tongue elevation. It is important that the tongue lift without support of the jaw. In other words, the tongue should touch the back of the teeth while the mouth is wide open. If the child can make an /s/, practice making a snake sound and then stopping the sound using the tongue tip. That will make a /t/ sound. I often use bingo markers to make “dot dot dots” or stack blocks on “top top top” to practice. First words for practice: do, doe, day, toe, tea, top, no, knee, neigh.
/l/ In order to produce /l/, you have to be able to elevate your tongue, so see the above suggestions if that is an issue. /l/ is produce by putting the tongue tip on the back of the teeth. Most kids substitute an /w/ which uses their lips, so I initially teach /l/ by telling the child to “bite their tongue”. We practice with the tongue tip between the teeth until they get the muscle memory for that, then they are quickly able to adjust to a better position. This is a hard one, particularly in the medial position (dollar, belly, balloon), so be patient and work hard. Make sure the child has a solid placement before attempting words. First words for practice: love, leg, lip, lamb, log.
YOU CAN improve your child’s speech….one sound at a time, one word at a time.
More tips next week.