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Supporting (verbal) language difficulties – Expressive language

  1. Find out about the child's particular speaking difficulties from the SLT
  2. Say/model phrases and types of words/word endings, the child needs to develop e.g. “under the bridge…. The car is going…. it’s fast...”
  3. New vocabulary may have to be introduced and worked on prior to lessons (ERP can give information about e.g. mind maps to help with vocabulary development)
  4. Expand the child's utterances, e.g. if s/he says, “Daddy go in car", you could say, "mm.. "Daddy's going in his car"
  5. Provide opportunities to practice new language and repeat it in new context
  6. Talk with your child, modeling what to say. Ask less questions and just talk! Like thinking out loud. Then s/he can hear and hopefully remember useful language.
  7. Allow extra time for the child to organise thoughts into words; don’t ‘jump in’ too fast.
  8. Re-say/’formulate’ muddled utterances, e.g. if s/he says, "A two boys are going to spade and digging out the sand", could be 'reflected' back as, "Yes, two boys are digging in the sand"
  9. Listening to good language models will help the child develop their language (from adults and peers)

 Supporting speech difficulties Hearing the difference between t~k and d~g

  1. Draw or write lots of short words beginning with ‘k’,’c’ or ‘g’ followed by a vowel e.g. “comb” “key” and “girl”. You say the words changing the ‘k/c’ to a ‘t’ and the ‘g’ to a ‘d’ at random, sometimes saying them correctly.e.g.  “tomb…..key….dirl….” etc.
  1. Your child gains a point for every word s/he hears as correct or ‘funny’/incorrect. The aim is for your child to hear whether the word was said correctly or not. S/he does not have to say the words.Then your child says the words. It doesn’t matter if she/he says them incorrectly, s/he has to rate their own feedback and say if it was said right or wrong. This way s/he can’t ‘get it wrong’ as s/he will gain a point for spotting the mistake and can have an extra point if they manage the ‘k’ or ‘g’ (but that isn’t the target here).
  1. Draw pairs of pictures; key/tea, car/tar, Kerry/Terry, Kim/Tim (boy and girl pictures) cart/tart, cool/tool, tap/cap date/gate, dye/guy, deer/gear. You’ll have to be creative!Then, can your child point to the word you say?Maybe s/he could put a brick on, or scribble on, the one you say (at random- could cut them out and spread on the table) until they’re covered?
  1. Can your child go on a ‘k’ and ‘g’ hunt? Finding items that have these sounds in (not necessarily letters, as ‘chocolate’ has a ‘c’ but is a ‘ch’ and ‘fridge’ has a ‘g’ but is a ‘j’ sound). Have a 5-minute limit.
  1. Also, can your child find words in a book with these sounds (if your child has sufficient Literacy skills). Set a 5-minute limit again, then have another go or a race together to see if scores can be beaten.

Supporting speech difficulties ‘r’ and ‘th’

  1. ‘r’ and th’ are the last sounds to develop in English, often past the age of 7 and then dependant on regional accent.
  2. Quiet ‘th’ (e.g. at the start of “thing” is usually replaced with ‘f’ and voiced/noisy ‘th’ (at the beginning of ‘this’), is usually replaced with ‘v’.
  3. ‘r’ is usually replaced with ‘w’ or a sound that is between the two.
  4. See the Speech and Language Therapist’s report for information about your child's speech. See how to help with your child’s speech issues.
  5. Do not force him/her into saying words correctly. If s/he can't say the word after one or two attempts it is unlikely to be attainable
  6. Repeat words for your child to hear, so s/he hears the correct model e.g. "yes....... it’s red” ” or “It’s your “thumb”.
  7. Be aware that your child may need particular help with these sounds when spelling.

Activities to practice ‘quiet th’ and  ‘voiced th’ and ‘r’

‘Quiet th’ (voice box not used) and ‘noisy th’ (voice box activated) are made by placing the tongue just between the teeth at the front. These are often the last sounds to develop in a child’s speech and sometimes are not used until 7-8 years old old (and then not in every accent).
  • Say ‘strings of quiet th and f-words e.g Thor, four, Thor, four, Thor…. Thin, fin, thin, fin, thin, fin… Thought, fort, thought, fort….This will help your child’s tongue and lips are able to pronounce the right sound in talking (as we don’t want to get rid of ‘f’ altogether!)
  •  Also, do this with strings of ‘noisy th’ and ‘v’ words; Than, van, than, van, than, van…. That, vat, that, vat, that,… Or just nonsense words e.g. “thar, var, thar, var…. To make this really hard mix them up, e.g. thor, four, that, vat…
Find and list lots of ‘th’ words (the sound can be in the word or at the end too) and then roll a dice; if you get e.g. a 5, you have to say 5 ‘th’ words as quickly as you can and in a quick row. Have 4 throws each taking turns and then see who’s won the most points. Or use a snakes and ladders type game and move along as you say the words. ‘R’ is a late sound to develop too, often over the age of 7. It is made by pulling the tip of the tongue back slightly from where a ‘t’ is articulated and leaving a slight gap between the tongue tip and the roof of the mouth. Als, it’s a ‘noisy’ sound with your voice box activated.
  1.  Write about 6 or so ‘r’ and ‘w’ letters over a piece of paper.   – Your child listens as you say one or the other sound at random and crosses out what he hears (write them down where he can’t see to cross check).   – Swap over   – Now try with short words e.g. run and one…… or rot and what
  2. Think of words starting with r and make up phrases with these in.‘Because’, ‘so’ ‘then’ ‘and’ are not allowed in the phrases. How long is your phrase? Score a point for every word. After 4 goes each, who has the most points?
  3. Practice r plus another sound in words by breaking these up e.g. “b…rown”, “g….row” etc.
  4. For the ultimate challenge, read from books, watching out for th th and r and try to say these in every word as they appear. Don’t do this for more than a page at a time, just every so often for practice.
  5. Or (even harder) find/think of words with all the sounds in e.g. “throw” …“Rothwell”!
  6. Or (even harder still) Can your child set himself ‘10 minute challenges’ where he tries to remember to use th th and f r in his general speech

Supporting social communication difficulties

  1. Use straightforward, unambiguous language and simplify if necessary (see ‘understanding’)
  2. If you think it, ‘goes without saying’, it may not!
  3. Be aware that new situations and people may upset the child. Explain forthcoming events in simple language, e.g. "We are going to... and then... and then we'll come back". Don't assume the child will know. S/he may be reassured anyway, by being told the structure or plan
  4. Focus the child's attention before speaking; say his/ her name to cue him/her in
  5. Give the child time to respond
  6. Guide the child by saying what they need to say e.g. (you say), “Can you help me please?”, so the child has a model of what to say to, (here), ask for help.
  7. Use a low key, calm approach and be consistent
  8. Phrase commands and requests as statements, for instance if you ask, “Would you like to sit down?” this may be met by the response, "no". Instead say, "Sit on this chair"
  9. Be aware of the amount of non-literal language that you use. For instance, “Wow, I flew here today” or “Now if you cast your mind back, we did some work in our heads last time…”
  10. Do not use metaphor, sarcasm and irony, without explaining what you mean. Or at least be aware that it may be misconstrued
  11. State information in the positive, e.g. "walk!" i.e. do not say, “Don't run", the child may not be able to infer
  12. Don't expect the child to infer hidden meanings. S/he may not be able to ‘read between the lines’. For instance, "Oh no I've left the door open" may not be seen as a possible request
  13. Be aware that the child may find it difficult to read facial expression, body language and tone of voice
  14. Say what you mean and mean what you say. For instance, a promise must be able to be carried out.
  15. Also, be aware of how the child may find it difficult to deal with possibilities, e.g. “If you do, then…”
  16. Visual cues may help the child understand, such as pictures, photographs or visual timetables (of events to take place)
  17. Avoid fun names such as "young man" or "princess". The child may become agitated, as it is not their name. Also e.g. ‘your coat” may not be understood, as child may say “No it’s Peters’ coat” (i.e. their name)
  18. Avoid vague terms such as 'maybe', 'later', 'sometimes', 'soon' or 'over there'. Instead change these to more specific terms such as 'in 5 minutes', 'stand next to the chair' and 'first,...next....last'
  19. Do not assume the child is being tactless or difficult. S/he may not understand social conventions (but it is ok to guide and explain how to be appropriate, to the child at certain times).

Supporting speech sound difficulties

  1. Children are usually around 7 years old before they pronounce every sound correctly in their speech.
  2. Ask the Speech and Language Therapist for information about your child's speech difficulties
  3. Find out if and when it is appropriate to correct or help a child with a particular speech sound
  4. Do not force the child into saying words correctly. If s/he can't say the word after one or two attempts it is unlikely to be attainable
  5. Repeat words for the child to hear, so s/he hears the correct model e.g. "yes........at the sea side", but do not ask him or her to say it again (unless the SLT has advised you to focus on a particular sound).
  6. It is also beneficial if your child looks at you as you pronounce their target sound
  7. Be aware on the effects speech problems can have on access to the curriculum, even the Reception level Literacy work expects almost fully developed speech skills (e.g. ‘r’ and ‘th’ are not usually pronounced correctly before about 7)
  8. A home-school diary may be helpful, to find out what the child is explaining
  9. If you do not understand, repeat back to the point where you got lost, or repeat back the parts you understood
  10. Be honest if you really can't understand, the child is likely to guess if you pretend you have understood
  11. Face the child as they are speaking, they may use facial expression or gesture to compensate for their speech difficulties

 Supporting verbal language difficulties – Understanding language

  1. The SLT will be able to explain about the child’s specific difficulties here e.g. how many bits of info the child can ‘take in’ and which words and grammatical constructions the child does/doesn’t understand.
  2. Make sure you have the child's full attention before speaking and say their name to get hi/her attention first.
  3. Speak slowly, making sure your voice is loud and clear, but don't shout
  4. Keep sentences short and simple. Be prepared to break them up into short chunks
  5. Allow extra time for the child to process language
  6. With children who have very low levels of understanding, talk about the 'here and now', if possible/appropriate, to make your language meaningful
  7. Change the words, if necessary, to make it more simple, or if you suspect you have used a word that is too complex, but try to keep the basic message the sam
  8. Check for listening and understanding frequently
  9. Give lots of visual cues e.g. gesture, actions and pointing to things
  10. Help the child develop agreed strategies for aiding their own understanding and for letting you know if they have not understood.

 Supporting speech difficulties – Changing  voiced (noisy) speech sounds and voiceless (quiet) sounds – e.g. ‘t’ for ‘d’ or ‘s’ for ‘z’

Some consonant sounds are made with ‘voice box vibration’ as part of their production and some are not. All vowels are ‘voiced’ however. Short consonants without voice = p  t  k Short consonant sounds with voice = b d g These form pairs p~b  t~d  k~g, the only difference in each pair being voiceless~voiced Long consonant sounds without voice= f  s  sh th (as in ‘thing’) Long consonant sounds with voice = v  z  zh (as in the middle of ‘measure) th (as in ‘this’) These form pairs too, f~v  s~z   sh~zh  and  th~thTwo consonants are a short and a long sound quickly put together; ‘ch’ (t swiftly blended with sh) and j (d swiftly blended with zh) These form a voiceless~ voiced pair too. Other voiced consonants,        l   y   r  w                                                                n  m    ng  (as at the end of ‘hang’) Your child may de-voice or add voice and then say the wrong letter sound at times e.g. ‘hid’ may become ‘hit’ making a completely different word. Be careful when practicing voiced sounds at the end of words, as this can encourage an unnatural ‘uh’ to be added e.g. “hi..d-uh”. Your SLT may provide specific therapy ideas.

Supporting speech difficulties ‘FRONTING’’; Saying “t” for ‘k/c’ and “d” for ‘g’

  1. 't’ and ‘d’ are made using the tip of the tongue at the front of the mouth, placed on, or around, the ridge behind the top teeth. The air builds up slightly then is ‘popped’ out.
  2. ‘k’ and ‘g’ are made with the same air build up, but the back of the tongue raises.
  3. ‘t’ and ‘k’ are quiet sounds (no voice box vibration) and ‘d’ and ‘g’ have voice box sound/vibration and are noisier. This is why you will feel less of a pop of air on ‘d’ and ‘g’ as the vocal folds are ‘interrupting’ the airflow.
  4. Children naturally and normally use ‘front’ sounds in place of ‘back’ ones until they are around 4 years old (dependant on their general level of development and factors such as when they started to talk).
  5. This is called ‘fronting’ and it is very common for children to get stuck in this pattern, well past the age of 4.
  6. The child may then say, for instance, “the bid dirl is drintin a tup of toffee and it’s in a mud” (‘‘ng’ is made with an even further back tongue position and is often said as ‘n’).
  7. ‘k/c’ and ‘g’ s appear a great deal in English words, so fronting can have quite a noticeable effect on a child’s speech. It may also affect his/her spelling, as s/he may write as they say.
  8. Some children, for instance older ones who have been stuck in this pattern for a long time or those with movement coordination difficulties, find it almost impossible to articulate the back of tongue movement needed for ‘k’ and ‘g’ and will need specific help with this.
  9. Be aware how hard it is for your child to use these sounds as they talk. If they can say e.g. “car” with lots of effort, then miss the ‘c’ when chatting, they are not being lazy. Try chatting yourself,  for two minutes, changing every ‘c/’ ‘k’ and ‘g’ sound to ‘t’ and ‘d’ sounds, to assess how easy it is for your child to do the opposite

Supporting children with fast, ‘cluttered’ speech

  1. Be aware that your child may find it difficult to realise how their fast speech sounds to others.
  2. It is more helpful to say, “I couldn’t understand that…. you spoke very quickly” (rather than “slow down”). This helps your child understand where the breakdown occurred and how to remedy it.
  3. Practice giving specific feedback. “I heard all of that other than… you only seemed to say half a word there” or, “all your words ran into one another there”
  4. Imagine you are a stranger listening to your child; would they understand? Don’t ‘get at’ your child, but try to help them in a constructive way as explained above.
  5. Give your child little communication tasks, such as practicing their ‘slow enough’ speech, so the other person understands them  first time, e.g. when buying something in a shop or asking for a ticket. You could practice this with family members on the phone too. Your child’s ‘challenge’ is for the other person not to have to say ‘pardon?’
  6. But, also help your child be aware that others may act as though they have understood (to be polite) when they have not actually understood. It will be helpful if your child can be sensitive to the reactions too, such as a puzzled or confused look (this will be focused on in any SLT sessions too).
  7. Choose a strategy/’trick’ that will help your child keep to a slow speed e.g. subtly tapping the side of his/her leg as s/he speaks. Can your child practice reading paragraphs, while using slow speech and the strategy chosen. Encourage your child to think about how it feels and sounds, to speak like this.

Word-Finding Difficulties

Children with specific word-finding difficulties often understand a wide range of words, but they struggle to think of the word they want to say.  These problems often arise from other difficulties such as poor phonological processing and /or then inaccurate storage of a new word, leading to inability to retrieve it when it is required. Children with word-finding difficulties may become frustrated and lose motivation when trying to communicate, as they are unable to convey the message they want to get across.  Their difficulties can show up in several different ways:
  1. slow recall of familiar vocabulary (long pauses of several seconds).
  2. the inaccurate naming of vocabulary; using a linked word e.g. ‘horse’ for ‘donkey’.
  3. sound errors, unrelated to any additional speech difficulties, where part of the word is retrieved correctly e.g. ‘kangoo’ for ‘kangaroo’ or ‘ ‘cove’ for ‘comb’.
  4. Overuse of fillers such as ’thingy’ and ‘stuff’.
  5. Circumlocution or ‘talking ‘around’ the target word without actually
  6. then remembering it.

How to help the child with word-finding difficulties

There is no specific solution to helping a child who is stuck for a word, a variety of approaches may be useful and it is often a case of trial and error to see what works best for the individual child.
  1. Ask the child if they have forgotten the word and offer help by asking ‘Are you stuck?’ or ‘Would you like some help with this word?’
  2. Reassure the child and boost his confidence by saying ‘I know you know the word, don’t you? You just can’t remember it right now.’
  3. Ask the child to describe the thing they are thinking of. If appropriate, repeat their ‘clues’ back to them to help them build up a better
‘Picture’ in their mind of the item they are describing and naming.
  1. Ask if they know if it is a long word or a short word.
  2. Ask if they can think of the first sound / what it begins with.
  3. If you know the word they are trying to say, tell them the first sound.
  4. Give the child plenty of quiet time and space to think. This is often all that is needed for children to find the word they need.  Discourage other children and adults from ‘helping’ by giving the child the word unless this is a strategy that the child has said he finds helpful.  Sometimes it can make children feel a failure if they have not been given long enough to try and succeed so just stand back for a little while.
  5. Once the child has retrieved the word, repeat it and ask them to say it again. This reinforces both the phonological and the semantic information (sound structure and word meaning).
  6. Older children could be encouraged to voice their difficulties, e.g. “I’m sorry, sometimes I can’t think of words”, rather than just struggle on at length.
The ERP can give lots of help and ideas for working on words to build your child’s vocabulary too.