Explore the world of speech sound therapy for young children


Many parents who come to the clinic voice with the concerns about their child’s “speech”. On assessment we discover that actually besides the words not being clear what we most often don’t see is “language” (putting words together to request something for example). And we don’t see “social communication” (waving bye with a smile for example). So what is perceived as “speech” is much more than just not saying the speech sounds correctly. It might be that we need to increase the child’s vocabulary and language so that we can target specific speech sound patterns.

We’ll guide you through some of the most frequently asked questions.

What is the difference between speech and language?

Language is how we put words together (e.g., the cat ran up a tree). For non-verbal children this might be how gestures and symbols are put together. Both will put these into a meaningful context. Language needs to use either speech and/or gestures or signs or pointing to symbols in order to come into being. It needs words, either spoken or written, put into grammatical order so that thoughts can be expressed adequately: about the here and now, about what he had for breakfast this morning or what we are going to do this coming weekend. We put words together to express our feelings and thoughts. Speech is one aspect of this very complex process.

Speech is the specific sounds that make up a word (e.g., the sounds in fish are /f-i-sh/).

Some children are delayed in their speech but will catch up with their peers’ development with time. Others may be using disordered speech sound patterns. If you’re unsure, contact your Speech and Language Therapist as early intervention is vital. It might be that you’re given activities to carry out at home. Or a direct therapeutic intervention may be required, along with regular practice at home. The approach depends on your child and how they learn best.

When might your Speech and Language Therapist recommend direct Speech and Language Therapy?

There are several reasons why your child may need intervention to support their communication. Some of these include:

  • When they produce vowels incorrectly
  • When a child has significantly fewer consonants than they should have by their age
  • Error patterns that are not following a typical process
  • Fewer word approximations
  • When a child is ready for speech therapy. That is to say, when we can target speech production through interactive play but most often speech is targeted through repeated activities which focus on a few sounds or words at a time. For this to work ideally a child does need to be able to sit at a table and take part in the activities and games.

How can I work on speech and language targets at the same time?

You’ll want your child to be engaged in activities. It’ll need to be in short bursts to keep their attention. Let’s say you’re focusing on the /p/ sound. You may get a bag with objects and items with /p/ in them. Speak to your child’s Speech and Language Therapist about what position in the word they are targeting now.

Sing the ‘what’s in the bag’ song. Pull out each item in turn and emphasise the sound that you are working on such as “it’s a fox, ffffox”. You can then comment on what the fox is doing, or what they look like (e.g., look at this fffurry fffox. It’s very fffriendly. Oh, the fffox is running).

This activity gives you the opportunity not only to build vocabulary but also to expose your little one to a good model of speech sounds.

“I’m concerned my child won’t sit through the assessment”

This is a common concern. Don’t worry. If your child is not able to sit through an assessment then we usually offer play-based assessment. This means it is activity focused and can be wherever your child feels most comfortable; this is usually on the floor. It is often best to see children in their own homes or even nursery places where they can roam more freely and where they feel most comfortable. On reading the filled-out parent questionnaire we can decide whether a home visit/nursery visit or a clinic visit might work best for your child.

You will be guided all the way through from assessment to intervention and beyond. So, you’ll leave feeling empowered and confident to get started!

Contact Sonja for support with your child’s speech.

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.


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