Speech sounds: Expectations vs reality
·

Speech sounds: Expectations vs reality

Sometimes our kids find it hard to listen to sounds in words and hearing the difference between sounds. This is an important skill which we call “sound awareness”. A lack of it can really impact on clear speech sounds production.

Your child might be confusing similar sounding words. Or they might not notice that a TAT is not a CAT for a DOD is not a DOG. Often children with speech sound disorders or difficulties don’t tune into individual sounds or even syllables. Grow your knowledge to support your child.

Read our latest blog on hearing the difference between sounds to develop speech sound production.

Practice makes perfect

There is a lot more to speech sound production than first meets the eye. Did you know that producing the correct speech sound at sentence level is the last piece to the communication puzzle? There’s a lot of practice before your child develops this last stage of speaking clearly. Your Speech and Language Therapist will start by determining if your child can hear the difference between the sound they are producing and the correct sound. So if your child says LIT instead of LICK we might contrast those two words by perhaps using a candle and a lollypop. Each time he/she says LICK they get to have a lick (or 3) on the lolly. But if they say LIT then we light up and blow out a candle. This way your child can see that there is a difference between those words and that the sounds we make actually matter. Fancy that!!

We call this auditory awareness, which is essentially hearing the sounds in words. Don’t be surprised if you hear your child’s therapist model the sound a lot. This is to develop their awareness. The more your child hears a sound, the easier they will find production. Furthermore, your Speech and Language Therapist will work on phonemic awareness (sound structures) such as the difference between a sound (e.g. sh, is one sound) vs a syllable (e.g., shell has one syllable) vs total number of sounds in a word (shell has three sounds sh-e-ll ), like you can see in my little video clip.

Once a child is able to produce a sound on its own and they can hear and identify how a short word is said correctly we can go and repeat lots of similar words with the sound at the beginning or end until it becomes automatic and new neuro pathways are laid in the child’s brain. From there we branch out into short phrases and then eventually sentences.

Six tips to practise auditory discrimination for speech sound production

  1. Sit opposite your child so they can see your mouth or or sit next to the child and place a mirror in front of you so they can see and hear your production.
  2. Make it fun! Once they’ve identified the sounds in the word, play part of a game (e.g., pop up pirate, Jenga, something which allows plenty of turns).
  3. Use car journeys or walking to school to practise (e.g., oh I see a sheep, sh-ee-p, sh-ee-p has three sounds. Can you spot something beginning with /sh/?)
  4. Remember that spellings can differ (e.g., ‘chef’ and ‘shed’ both have the same initial sound).
  5. Talk about what you’re doing with your mouth (e.g., my lips are rounded for /sh/). Your Speech and Language Therapist will be able to support you with this.
  6. Make silly sentences using your child’s special sound (e.g., Sheep show shepherds shearing).

At this stage you are not expecting your child to produce the sound. This is why it’s important that they continually hear an excellent model. If your child attempts speech sound production at any stage, this is to be encouraged as it’s a great opportunity to model the correct version.

Contact me to develop your child’s speech sounds.


Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

0