Speech sounds are the sounds we make, using our mouth, to form words. To make sounds the brain needs an idea to communicate, then it send the idea to the mouth telling it which words to say and the sounds to make. This includes signals to the muscles that control the tongue, lips and jaw.
Children may present with some errors which are part of their accent, for example ‘th’ said as “f” so ‘thanks’ is “fanks” or they drop the ‘t’ sound in words like ‘letter’ and ‘bottle’.
- Listening to what the child is saying rather than how he is saying it.
- Accepting a child’s speech attempts as their best effort. Children are not lazy when it comes to speech sounds; it is just that they are not ready and/or able to use the correct ones.
- Using alternative or augmentative methods of communication where necessary e.g. pictures, signs.
- Setting up home/school books or talking to the parents about what they’ve done at home etc. so that you have some context to work from when talking to the child.
- Modelling back the correct word if a child uses the wrong sounds. Do not ask the child to repeat the word over and over; he is unlikely to be able to correct it. Even if he can, it is unlikely that he will be able to carry this across to the next time he uses the word.
- Reflecting back any of the words you have understood to show the child that you have been listening.
- Remembering the fact that just because a child cannot say a sound correctly does not mean that he will be unable to learn to read and spell in the same way as other children do.
- Acknowledging to the child that you have not understood, and ask him to tell you again. If you still don’t understand, ask him to show you what he means if possible.
- Never correcting a child’s speech in front of other children as it can have a huge impact on self-esteem and confidence. Use non-threatening opportunities to reinforce any sounds that you know the child has been working on with the Speech and Language Therapist e.g. when reading or doing phonic work.