By Pam Marshalla

Q: I am so happy to have found your website and blog. I shared the post you made about not stressing out over kids putting extra schwas at the ends of syllables (epenthesis) with all my coworkers at our speech clinic and they loved that advice.  I can’t tell you how many goals have been written in this clinic to avoid that process and I feel relieved that I can spend less time worrying about it and more time worrying about other important processes. Honestly, I always kind of felt in my gut that it was a waste of time to work on removing that extra schwa, so it’s nice to have someone just come out and say it out loud.

Here’s the best phonology advice I can give you––

First, always follow your gut and your heart.

Second, stop thinking of deviant phonological processes as problems.  Instead think about them as a child’s solutions for things he cannot yet do.

For example, the client may be adding a schwa after a first consonant in a cluster.  He may be saying “blue” as “buh-lue.”  Epenthesis is the stage that occurs between using a singleton and a cluster.

I see it like this: it is better for us to spend more time helping a client practice the things he CAN do than to eternally try to get him to do things he CANNOT do.  Van Riper and colleagues advocated this.

This is just like learning to play an instrument. A child does not advance by always trying to do things he CANNOT do.  Most of a child’s practice involves rehearsing the things he CAN do.  He begins to add new skills a little bit at a time to the things he can do.

I have followed this perspective my whole career and it has never failed me.

6 thoughts on “Epenthesis”

  1. I have a middle school student that does this. He was qualified for stuttering a couple of years ago. He-uh sounds-uh like this-uh when he-uh talks-uh. He’s of average intelligence and his grades are fine. We’ve been working on phrasing and pausing and he doesn’t like the way that sounds. There’s no tension or repetitions anyway. I’m really not seeing any academic need for this student and I’m considering dismissing him. Any advice?

  2. Hi, I’m a graduate student and have a client that inserts consonants instead of vowels. SO it will be fpat instead of fat. He substitutes p/f as you may have guessed. He is able to say /f/ in isolation but as soon as a syllable happens he adds that /p/. Any suggests on treatments that will help to eliminate that addition?

    1. Hi Pam,

      This often happens when children are learning how to say new sounds. They often partially revert back to their error sound. For example your client that said fpat for fat, was likely originally stopping the f to a p in isolation but has since acquired the p at the isolation level. I find the aspiration technique helpful for kiddos who do this. This is where you add a soft ‘h’ sound in between the initial sound and the vowel sound e.g fhhhat.

  3. We have a set of male twins in kindergarten that add a schwa/epenthesis to the end of all voiced consonants in conversation. Any thoughts on how to treat this?

  4. Hi! I have a kiddo who adds “ga” to words that end in a vowel. Sometimes it’s just a “k” For example: “okayk” But usually it’s: “Okay” becomes “okayga”. Additionally, he adds “dee” to the end of some words. For example, “‘my turn” becomes “my turndee”. He is 3 years 8 months and VERY unintelligible. I have been trying to drag out his words and that seems to help a little bit but sometimes he still adds it. For example: “okayyyyyyyyyyyyyy” would become “okayyyyyyyyga” I have been trying to also focus on things he can say (i.e. changing “no” to “nope” because he does well with consonants at the end). We are unsure if it is epenthesis or something similar?? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you!

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