Vowels in Late Talkers

By Pam Marshalla

Q: In your seminar on apraxia and dysarthria, you talked about how vowels (V) are more important to remediate than consonants (C) in children with very low language and severe motor speech disorders. Do you recommend the same thing for children who simply seem to be “late talkers”? Should I model the vowel instead of the consonant to obtain the words I am stimulating?

With kids who just look like “late talkers”, I would model both the C and the V as usual, but I would make sure to use the right vowel. For example:

  • Don’t model: “Buh-buh-ball”
  • Do model: “Baw-baw-ball”

Keep in mind that in the class we were talking about motor speech disorders. Developing vowels in a child with a motor speech disorder helps boost his intelligibility while we are waiting months and years for his consonants to emerge.

Also remember that the vowels set the vocal tract into fundamental positions, and that consonants are movements added to it. Kids with apraxia and dysarthria often need to learn both of these movement parameters.

A child who potentially is just a “later talker” should have no trouble with the positions of the vocal tract set by the vowels. And he should be able to add consonant movements quickly once he starts talking more. Therefore, we can model the C and the V right from the start.

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