Many children do not have a serious speech problems or impairments (phonological disorder or dyspraxia), but just have speech articulation difficulties with a particular sound, or produce a sound incorrectly for no obvious reason. An example of a common articualtion problem would be a “lisp”. When a child has a difficulty with just one or two sounds it is usually not too difficult to improve their speech, although it is advantageous if you try and fix the problem when they are young. If you leave a speech problem till the child gets older, it becomes more difficult to put it right. With speech therapy and practice, these articulation difficulties can soon be fixed. Although there is a general time frame when we expect most children to be able to produce certain sounds correctly, many children acquire some sounds a little later, but if you are concerned about your child’s speech development see your local speech and language therapist / pathologist and discuss the possibility of speech therapy.
Some common speech problems:
A “lisp” occurs when the individual makes a sound (usually an /s/ sound) between their tongue and their teeth. Less commonly, the sound is made because the air is pushed over the sides of the tongue rather than the front, and this is often called a “lateral lisp”.
“Gliding” occurs when sounds such as the /r/ or the /l/ are replaced with a /w/, so “rug” is pronounced and “wug“, or “lake” is pronounced as “wake“.
Another common speech error made by English speaking children is to replace the /th/ sound with a /f/ or a /v/, so “thin” is pronounced as “fin“.
Some children “front” sounds. For instance, a child may use a /t/ instead of a /c/, so “car” is pronounced as “tar“.
Other children may have difficulties articulating /sh/, /ch/, and /j/ so they have difficulties saying words such as “shop“, “chair“, or “jam“.
These difficulties in isolation can be fixed quite easily with help from a speech pathologist / therapist. When the child has a combination of the above problem, or more complex difficulties with speech, it can take longer to improve things and it is important that you seek professional help and practice regularly.
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