Does your child say “Dough” instead of “Go”? Or “Tea” instead of “Key”? Do you hear a /Sh/ instead of an /S/ does “see” sound more like “she”?
We Speechies call this a Fronting Pattern which means that a sound that should be produced at the back of the throat with the back of the tongue, like K or G , is said at the front of the mouth with the tip of the tongue, like a T or a D or SH. When this happens speech can be really hard to make out because these sounds are literally everywhere in everyday sentences. Just think how many K’s and G’s we hear in a simple sentence?
For example, I heard my little student say earlier today: “I know what game we can play in your garden? It’s the one with cones and rings and cushions! I know where it is I can get it.”
But it sounded like:
“I know what DAME we DAN play in the DARDEN! It’s the one with TONES and rings and TUSHIONS! I know where it is I TAN DED it.”
If that sounds familiar to you, here is a little overview of what we can do about it:
First up it’s always good to start with general speech sounds awareness: does a child hear syllables and intonation? Do they know words that rhyme? Can they follow or copy a simple beat with a drum? Can they listen and hear quiet sounds and loud sounds and can they copy those? Can they follow mouth and tongue movements:, for example : stick out your tongue, lick your lips, click your tongue, blow raspberries?
Then it really helps to talk about BACK and FRONT of things and to draw attention to the back of the mouth and the back of the tongue and the front tip of the tongue and how sounds are made in the mouth. I often use a puppet to show this or a model of a mouth like this one here in the picture.
Next we try and listen to words starting with a BACK sounds like a K or a G , and I read out a list of words with those sounds: COW, CORE, CAT, CONE, KEY etc or ARK, EEK, OAK, ACHE…
Or GOO GUY GUM GONE
After that we try and see if a student can actually produce a single sound like a K or a G just by itself. If they can, that’s a really great start and if they can’t I help them to produce one – over a few sessions we usually get there. We call this Sound production in isolation.
Once a child can produce a sound correctly, on its own, we try and start working on very simple words that are really powerful like “GO”!!!!! in a motivating game or “CAR” for little ones who love a car racing track.
Now that we have established the back sounds and are using it in short words, we can gradually re-train brain pathways and oral- motor/movement pathways to use these new sounds in many words and then short phrases. That can take time!! This is called generalisation and it is not uncommon for it to take up a whole year for fluent speech to be error-free .
Why does it take so long? Being able to produce a correct and clear K or G sound does not mean it will be used easily. Our brain pathways are fixated or habituated to the error sound. It takes time for habits to change. A child might be able to hear the word TIGER with a G in the middle and she knows that it is not a TIDER but when saying it her tongue automatically moves forward rather than lifts up at the back. It’s a bit like a person who has a rounded back: the brain knows to stand upright and how not to slouch, but when we don’t focus on it, ooops we have slouched again because that is what we are comfortable doing and our body moves with our habit.
It takes effort and motivation to change our movement patterns and that includes our tongue and lip patterns! We usually get there through a huge variety of games and practice. Lots and lots of repetition is key as is motivation to change.
Parents and carers are crucial in the success of Speech Therapy!
We need your feedback at home, the regular short and sweet exercises, the constant positive encouragement and great modelling of speech sounds. We often find that parents are tuned into their child’s error sounds and can understand them much better than anyone else. This is great of course in many ways, however, it also means that the child has less motivation to change: if mummy understands me then my world is ok.
I will give you a short outline of what different speech therapy models I use in my practice, be it in clinic face to face or on-line in my future blogs soon.
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.