About 1 in 12 children have some sort of speech disorder that can cause broken, unintelligible, or unclear speech. But even if your child doesn’t have a speech disorder, it’s not uncommon for children to speak in ways that are hard to understand.
Whether your child has a speech disorder or not, there are ways that you can take steps toward improved speech. Here are three tips that will help your children speak more clearly and confidently.
1. Practice Speech Exercises for Clarity
There are a few main issues that cause young children to have unclear speech: consonants where they shouldn’t be and no consonants where they should be.
Let’s look at some tips for working on each issue.
Consonants Where They Shouldn’t Be
Young children tend to switch out the beginning letter of a word, which can make what they’re saying confusing and unclear. Some kids will say “door” instead of “poor” for example. Or they’ll say “bick” instead of “kick.”
The reason for this is that many consonant sounds use the same mouth movement. The only difference is how we use our throat and tongue muscles to change the sound.
When kids are learning to talk, the distinctions aren’t quite clear yet, and it’s easy for the sounds to get mixed up.
Try having your kids speak in a quieter tone, or even a whisper, to say the words that they mix up. This adjusts the feeling of the vocal cords, making it easier for them to distinguish which noise is the correct one for that word.
No Consonants Where They Should Be
Almost the opposite issue to the one above occurs too: young kids tend to leave off ending consonants of words. So while a child might mean to say “Dad” but actually say “da.”
And “da” could mean many things. The only way you would be able to figure out what they mean is through context or asking them more questions. This usually stops by age 2 but can persist with certain disorders.
To help improve their clarity, have your child practice saying entire words ending in consonants. Things like “mom” “dad” “sock” “bed” “food” etc. Encourage them to exaggerate the ending sounds too, so they can get into the right practice.
2. Encourage Them to Speak Slowly
Kids think and observe things much faster than they can physically get the words out. This can cause them to speak too quickly, which makes what they’re saying difficult (or impossible) to understand.
Encourage your child to take their time when speaking. Really show them that you’re listening, too. Sometimes kids want to speak quicker because they sense that who they’re talking to isn’t paying close attention.
Fast-talking can actually be a speech disorder itself, so keep an eye on this if you notice it continuing in your child as they get older.
3. See a Speech Therapist
There are many other things that can be causing your child to have unclear speech: speech disorders, muscular issues, developmental problems, etc. There are also other things you could be noticing like sound substitutions or even more serious things like apraxia.
If you notice these things worsening or not clearing up by age 2, you should take your child to a speech therapist. They’ll be able to fully understand what’s going on and help them improve their speech to be more clear.
Improved Speech Takes Time
Just like learning to talk takes a while, learning to speak correctly does also. Improved speech isn’t going to happen overnight; it will take patience, exercise, and hard work on both you and your child’s part.
If you have any more questions about your child’s speaking issues or want to set up an appointment, don’t hesitate to contact us.