Speech-language Newsletter

Articulation: Helping children become more intelligibile

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What is an Articulation Disorder? By Julie A. Daymut, M.A., CCC-SLP Super Duper Handouts

Speech sound production is a complex process that involves precise planning, coordination, and movement of different articulators (such as the jaw, lips, teeth, tongue, palate, cheeks, and “voice box”). Correct articulation produces clear speech. Another name for clear speech is intelligibility. Errors in speech sound production are known as articulation errors. Articulation errors are common in children when they first learn to speak.


An example of this is a toddler who says “wabbit” for “rabbit.” Most children eventually outgrow such speech errors, which are a normal part of learning to produce new sounds. (Note: Regional dialects, such as a “Boston /r/”, are not articulation errors.) When a child demonstrates articulation errors beyond those of typical development, he/she may need to see a speech-language pathologist (SLP). The SLP evaluates the type of error(s) the child is making and may develop an intervention or therapy plan. In speech/language sessions, the SLP teaches the child how to make the sound. He/she shows the child how to move the articulators, what type of sound it is (a “whistly” sound versus a “stop” sound, for example), and whether to turn voice on or off.


A child can make the following articulation errors when producing speech sounds: Substitutions, Omissions, Distortions, and/or Additions. An easy way to remember these is to use the acronym SODA!


S – Substitutions Definition: Replace one sound with another sound. Examples: “wed” for “red,” “thoap” for “soap,” “dut,” for “duck”


O – Omissions (also known as deletions) Definition: Omit a sound in a word. Note: This error affects intelligibility the most, making speech more difficult for the listener(s) to understand. Examples: “p ay the piano” for “play the piano”, “g een nake” for “green snake”


D – Distortions Definition: Produce a sound in an unfamiliar manner. Examples: “pencil” (nasalized—sounds more like an “m”) for “pencil,” “sun” (lisped—sounds “slushy”) for “sun”


A – Additions Definition: Insert an extra sound within a word. Examples: “buhlack horse” for “black horse,” “doguh,” for “dog”


What causes articulation disorders?

For most children, the cause of the speech sound disorder in unknown. Other speech sound disorders can be linked to things such as a cleft palate, problems with the teeth, hearing loss, or difficulty controlling the movements of the mouth. Neurological disorders that can affect articulation include cerebral palsy.

  • Oral Apraxia: Difficulty making voluntary movements of the tongue and lips or with combining movements including those needed to make speech sounds. As a result, speech may be difficult to produce or have many inconsistent articulation errors.
  • Dysarthria: Paralysis, weakness or generally poor coordination of the muscles of the mouth. This can make speech slow, inaccurate, slurred, and/or hypernasal (when too much sound comes through the nose).
SPEECH: TH set 1
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Lindamood Bell's Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing® (LiPS®) program

Some of my students use The LiPS® program which teaches students to feel the actions of their lips, tongues and vocal chords, and to notice and label them. Sounds are introduced in pairs (Brothers) and labeled quiet or noisy, based on vibrations of the vocal cords. These sounds have names that help students remember the parts of the mouth that are used to produce the sounds.

Lip Poppers: p, b

Tongue Tappers: t, d

Tongue Scrapers: k, g

Lip Coolers: f, v

Tongue Coolers: th, th

Skinny Air: s, z

Fat Air: sh, zh

Fat-pushed Air: ch, j

5 Minute Kids

5 Minute Kids™ is a program developed by Susan Sexton, a retired speech language pathologist from Lapeer County Schools, Michigan, to help children with speech sound disorders. The intent of this program is to minimize the amount of time that a child spends out of the classroom, and to improve the quality of time that the child spends working on individual speech sounds in therapy. A student enrolled in the 5 Minute Kids™ program receives individual therapy for five to seven minute sessions, two to four times per week.
Hand Cue Sound Matching app

Practice Articulation at Home

Using flashcards can make practicing your speech very enjoyable. If your child is able to produce his sound correctly 40% or more of the time in single words, practicing at home will be beneficial. Find 20 robust vocabulary words from your curriculum that contain your sound. Write each word from that list on two 3x5 cards. Make sure that your child is able to read the words. Practice saying your words with these games:


1. MYSTERY PICK: An adult chooses a card (not telling which one), and places it into the deck, shuffles, and fans the cards out. The student guesses which card the adult chose using good speech.

2. UP on the CUPS: Have the child close his/her eyes. Hide a small object beneath one of three opaque cups. On top of each cup place a stimulus card. The student guesses under which cup the object is hidden, by naming the card resting on top.

3. PICK 2: The Student picks 2 cards from the stimulus deck, then must make one sentence using both words. Rules can vary: the sentence must make sense, or the sentence must be nonsense.

4. MEMORY LINE UP: Place 3,4,5 cards in a row. The student says each, then closes his/her eyes, while the adult switches the order. The student then must say them as she/he put the cards back into the correct order.

5. SAY IT in a FLASH: Place stimulus cards around the room. Turn the lights down low, and student shines a flashlight onto a card and says it using good speech.

6. HATS OFF: Place a large hat on the floor, upside down. Student says each card as they attempt to toss the cards into the hat. Variation: use a ball and a basketball hoop or trashcan- say a word before each turn.

7. MEMORY: Place all the cards, word down, on the table. Taking turns with an adult, each person turns over two cards. If they match, the child must read the word and can keep the pair. If the two cards do not make a pair, they are turned over and the next person has a turn. The person with the most pairs wins.

8. GO FISH:In order to play Fish, you need to make more flashcards. You will need 14+ pairs. Deal five cards to each player. Leave the undealt cards face down as a draw pile. Starting with the player at dealer's left, each player asks another for a card. For example: "Kevin, do you have Restaurant?" In order to ask, you must already have a card with Restaurant. Whenever your request for a card is filled, it remains your turn. Continue with your turn. When the player you ask can't oblige, you'll be told to "Go Fish." Pick up the top card of the draw pile. If it's the card you called for, show the card at once, and your turn goes on. Otherwise, your turn ends. Play proceeds until the draw pile is gone.

9. TEACHER: give an adult a spelling test using the words

10. SPELLING TEST: Have an adult give you a spelling test using the words

11. ANY BOARD GAME: Say 3 words before taking each turn while playing a board game that you have at home.

12. READERS THEATER: Ask your family to put on a Readers Theater Play and practice the words while performing. Ask me to print out the script for you or find it on the StoryTown website.

13. HIDE AND SEEK: Hide cards around a room in your house. Say the word when you find it

14. DETECTIVE: Analyze each word to determine if your sound comes at the beginning, middle or end of the word

15. TONGUE TWISTERS: Make up a tongue twister using each card. Have the sentence 4+ words with 3 or more of the words starting with your sound.

16. TIC TAC TOE: Cut out 6 blue squares and 6 red squares. The adult gets one color and the child gets the other. Place 9 flashcards on a tic tac toe grid. Read the word of the box you want to claim and then place your square down. The person that gets 3 in a row wins.

17. BEAN BAG TOSS: Lay out flashcards face down up the floor. Toss the bean bag and identify the flashcard it lands on.

18. CROSS THE RIVER: Place flashcards on floor in winding manner. Each represents a stepping stone in the river. The student must say the word in order to step on it and cross the river!

By Kindergarten:

The speech-language pathologist should consider a speech sound error to be a problem when the error persists one year beyond the chronological age when 90% of the students sampled have typically acquired that sound. According to School District of Cheltenham Township criteria, kindergarten students should be able to produce the following sounds:

  • all vowels, /p/, /m/, /h/, /n/, /w/, /b/, /k/, /g/, /d/, /f/, /y/

By first grade

all vowels, /p/, /m/, /h/, /n/, /w/, /b/, /k/, /g/, /d/, /f/, /y/, /t/, /ng/

By second grade

  • all vowels, /p/, /m/, /h/, /n/, /w/, /b/, /k/, /g/, /d/, /f/, /y/, /t/, /ng/, /l/, /sh/, /ch/, /j/, /zh/

By the age of eight children should be able to produce the following sounds in addition to above:

  • /r/, /s/, /z/, /v/, /th/
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SPEECH: SH initial position.m4v
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