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Speech sounds

Speech refers to the ability to combine sounds together to say words. Children may have difficulty producing individual sounds and/or combining sounds to make words in everyday conversation. This can have an impact on a child’s ability to make themselves understood by others.

During typical speech sound development, children often use patterns to try to simplify how they say words. They can replace sounds they find difficult to say with other sounds. An example of this might be a 2.5 year old child saying ‘dun’ instead of ‘sun’ or ‘tea’ instead of ‘key’. Children usually grow out of this but some will need help to change how they say sounds and words as they get older.

Once a child is referred with concerns about their speech sound development, the speech and language therapist will assess their speech. This is done during play, when looking at pictures, and in conversation. This will enable the therapist to establish if the errors the child is making are appropriate for their age. It will also help decide if they require advice/input from the speech and language therapy team.

Intervention sessions for speech sounds involve the development of the child’s ability to listen to and hear the difference between sounds. It will also involve producing their target sounds on their own and/or in words and sentences. These skills will be developed through play and fun activities suitable for each individual child.

If a child is unable to communicate effectively due to their speech sound difficulties, alternative modes of communication may be introduced to help them. This includes encouraging the child to use gesture, signs, and pictures to communicate and express themselves whilst their speech sounds are still developing. This can reduce feelings of frustration and upset for the child and those around them.

Advice and resources will be given to parents, carers, nursery, and school staff so that they can practice between sessions. Daily practice and reminders from those closest to the child result in the best outcomes.

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