by Harriett Hoeprich, Speech/Language Specialist
Be a practice partner.
Ask your child's speech/language therapist to let you know when it would be helpful for you to practice at home. Then practice your child's successful words, using word cards or objects, at home. Use games and other fun activities, and make your sessions short and frequent. (5-15 minutes a day)
Don't directly correct sounds that your child has not worked on yet.
Direct correction has been shown to be largely ineffective and disruptive. This is especially true when the child has not had the opportunity to have the new skill presented in a more isolated way than connected speech. At some point, your therapist will let you know if your child is at the stage where gentle reminders may be effective during connected speech for the targeted sound. This is usually after mastery has been achieved at the single word level, however.
Use revision every day to address the articulation needs as a whole.
Parents don't realize how powerful this can be, particularly if the revision is used consistently and simply. Revision is the technique where you repeat what the child has said, but use the correct pronunciation. You may want to give the sound a little extra emphasis. (Example--Child: Look at bu! Adult: Look at that bug! Go, bug, go!)
Don't directly imitate your child's errors. Model good speech.
Some of the cute things our children say are very precious to us. But don't inadvertently reinforce the incorrect productions by laughing or drawing attention. Certainly don't imitate the incorrect production. Repeat the utterance using the correct pronunciation. And make a tape or video recording to save your memories of some of the adorable things your child says at this age! Model good speech.
Address health issues that may contribute to the problem.
Fight ear infections. Address other physical difficulties that may contribute, such as mouth breathing or voice difficulties.
Read to your child.
It's amazing how much this accomplishes. Use reading as a way to surround your child with the targeted sound. (See "Ideas for Books to Enhance Articulation Skills".)
Play with your child.
Spend time talking with your child in play, while you model the correct productions very simply, using revision.
Talk to your child.
Talk to your child as you go through your daily routine. This is a chance to model many correct productions, use revision, and stimulate language development, too.
Below are some fun ideas of games and activities you can use to practice your child's sounds. Many of these games involve the use of simple picture cards which can be made out of index cards and catalogs.
Use the picture cards to play Concentration (Memory) or Go Fish.
Play a board game like Candyland, but have your child say a word before he takes a turn each time. Don't forget to take a word yourself! Then it's one more model your child gets to hear. When your child is ready for this step, let your child "catch" you making the sound "the old way" and let him show you how it should be said with the "new sound".
If your child isn't quite ready to enjoy traditional board games like Candyland, use something like Hi-Ho Cherrio, which is a simpler type of game. Use the picture cards in the same manner, however.
Play more active types of games, such as Nerf Golf, Bean Bag Toss, Ring Toss, and Bowling by simplifying the game to include less movement. This works really well with the minimal pairs. Put out two bowling pins with a picture card of the pair against each one (pin-bin, for example). Then try several approaches: Have your child tell you which one he knocked over, or which one he will knock over. Then gently tell him: "You said you were going to knock over the picture of 'pin'. You knocked over 'bin'."
Hide the picture cards and let your child "find" them. You can also hide the pictures in other containers, such as plastic eggs.