Childhood Speech Disorders
Part 2: Three Common Mistakes in Therapy
For most of my childhood, I had problems with my speech. As mentioned in Part 1, speech errors are normal while children are first learning to talk, but the errors should resolve themselves naturally by the time the child is in kindergarten. My errors, however, weren’t resolved until I was in fifth grade. It took years of speech therapy classes for me to finally pronounce words properly. Looking back, I realize now that there were a few lessons I had back then – both from my school and my family – that I had to unlearn before I could progress.
What should you avoid doing?
There are three effective speech therapy methods for those with a phonological processing disorder (discussed in part 1):
- Demonstrating how to pronounce the sounds correctly
- Having the student identify which sounds are correct and incorrect
- Having the student repeatedly practice troublesome words.
The first method is where we come to our first common mistake. When teachers and parents demonstrate the correct pronunciation of words, they often over-emphasize phonemes (the units of sound in a word). If a child is dropping his or her r’s, for example, the first reaction is to make the r’s stand out in the demonstration. Rather than saying “rabbit” or “bathroom” normally, many are inclined to say “R-R-Rabbit” and “bath-Room.” This can lead to the student developing disjointed speech patterns, or over-emphasizing the phonemes themselves.
Phoneme awareness is a useful method for articulation students, but should be implemented only after the student is able to read. A 2010 study found that “most children in the study were not cognitively ready for more advanced, abstract phoneme manipulation tasks” until they were able to read, anyways. That way, phonemes can be emphasized more on paper by highlighting/pointing to letters than by vocal cues.
Limiting therapy to professional sessions.
Another important aspect of therapy is that it should be constant. Professional therapists are helpful, but they can only interact with the student for a couple hours at a time. The role of parents as therapists is increasingly praised in current research, and should be encouraged as often as possible.
The “parental therapy” method is extremely beneficial because it can be implemented anywhere and anytime, and it incorporates fun family bonding activities (story time, play time, shared meals, etc.) to make speech therapy seem less like a chore. Check out Mommy Speech Therapy or Home Speech Home for speech therapy activity ideas you can do at home.
The “parental therapy” method is extremely beneficial because it can be implemented anywhere and anytime, and it incorporates fun family bonding activities… Click to Tweet
Allowing people to “parrot” your child
Let’s face it, some speech mistakes are cute, especially when little ones make them. Some mistakes are so cute that adults or other children are inclined to adopt the words themselves. My cousin used to say “namik” for “napkin” when she was two, and our whole family started telling her to wipe her hands on her “namik” at dinner because we thought it was cute. This made it more difficult for her to break the habit when she grew older.
Hopefully, knowing the current research on speech therapy can help parents and educators avoid some of the same difficulties I faced in my education.