The Essence of Therapy With Little Kids

By Pam Marshalla

Q: Our son is three and was non-verbal. Our SLP seems really good at helping him learn to talk. But he is very hard to understand. What can we do?

The essence of speech therapy for little children is to learn about words and sounds. We need to focus on both when working with young children. Many of today’s younger therapists put all their focus on building vocabulary, and they spend very little time focused on the actual production of sounds. Do both. But don’t focus on his ability to learn one phoneme or another. Stimulate him to produce a huge variety of sounds including:

  • Animal and Environmental Sounds – Dog bark, cat meow, cow moo, siren, tire screech, etc.
  • Vowels – Eee, Ooo, Ahhh, Ohhh, Uhhh, etc.
  • Eating Sounds – Mmmm, Nnnnn, Num-num-num, etc.
  • Non-speech Sounds – Laugh, cry, squeal, shout, snort, whisper, etc.
  • Babbling – Babbababa, mamamamama, gogogogogo, etc.
  • Raspberries – Made with the lips, with the tongue, with the back of the tongue
  • Hissing Sounds – Ssss (snake), Shhh (shush), Ch-Ch (Chew-chew train), Zzzz (bee), etc.
  • Alphabet – Teach him to sing the song. He will mumble at first. The individual letter names will become clearer with time.
  • Songs – Sing all the time. Sing kids songs and adult songs. Sing in the shower, sing in the car, and sing your way through household chores.
  • Words – Exaggerate words for him to hear and teach him to do the same. When modeling words, slow down, pause before the word, speak clearly, and exaggerate the pronunciation. Encourage him to do the same.
  • Play with words he can say – Say them loud and soft, high and low, happy and sad, long and short, angry and pleased, etc.

The first few chapters of my book Becoming Verbal with Childhood Apraxia is all about this.

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