Articulation Therapy: Approaches & Techniques

Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

Have you ever wondered why some children have difficulties forming sounds, or what can be done to help them communicate more clearly? Keep reading to learn more about articulation therapy and some of the fundamental techniques for correcting articulation errors.

What is Articulation Therapy?

When a child has difficulty forming sounds it may affect their development and other aspects of their lives. For example, a child with an articulation error may have difficulty completing schoolwork or interacting socially with their peers. This is where articulation therapy comes into play. The goal of articulation therapy is to help a child produce challenging sounds and achieve age-appropriate speech.

Proper articulation helps children
A happy, articulate child

Let's start with a definition of articulation. Articulation is the process of physically producing a sound, syllable, or word. This is accomplished by using the lips, tongue, teeth, jaw, and palate to control the flow of air. Articulation errors come in four varieties: substitution, omission, distortion and addition; the acronym SODA may help you remember them.

Substitution occurs when one sound is replaced with another, such as sorry/sowwy. In very young children, this isn't always a cause for concern. Omission is the removal of a difficult sound when forming a word. Think of Dick Van Dyke's atrocious Cockney accent from the movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: 'ello guvnah! Distortion errors occur when a child can't produce the correct sound; for example, children with a frontal lisp may have difficulty with the /s/ sound. An addition error involves the use of an incorrect sound or syllable, such as ending all words with an /s/ sound.

A key point in understanding articulation errors is their relationship to physiological, rather than psychological, issues. A child who has a rhotacism, or the inability to pronounce the letter /r/, understands how to pronounce the letter and sound, but has a physical impairment that prevents him or her from producing them correctly.

Traditional Therapy

Traditional therapy starts by breaking down the specific sound or sounds a child can't say to the smallest unit. For instance, if a child is having trouble with the /b/ sound, you can isolate the sound and practice repeating it with the child. When the child says 'I'm taking a wath', you repeat the sentence correctly with an emphasis on the error: 'You are taking a Bath!'. After mastering sounds, children can move onto syllables, such as ba, ab and abba, or one syllable words with the sound at the front, like bath.

As the child becomes more proficient in producing the sound, you can incorporate sounds in sentences, starting with the sound at the beginning of a word. Later on, you can work with sounds that occur at the end or middle of a word. Once a child becomes more comfortable with sentences, you can advance to reading or storytelling, which requires them to make the problem sound in conjunction with other sounds that come before and after it. The final step, conversation, occurs when the child is feeling very comfortable in their ability to make the sound and can use it in everyday speech.

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