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Let’s Take a Closer Look at Articulation: Articulation Disorders and Articulation Therapy

April 10, Contributed by Christina Boni

Articulation is a term that professionals in the field often use to describe an individual's speech. It includes the totality of motor processes that are involved in the planning and execution of sequences of overlapping gestures that result in speech. Sounds are learned at different ages depending on how difficult they are to say. How do you determine whether or not your child is producing an age appropriate articulation error?  The chart below shows the age range during which each sound is learned.






• Sounds are not typically worked on before the “age when treatment is indicated” column.

* Please note that different error patterns may be present on /sh/ during the preschool years and that t/sh should be resolved by approximately 4 years of age, while s/sh or th/sh is considered developmentally appropriate for this age group.

Adapted from handout provided by Markham Stouffville Hospital.

If your child is producing articulation errors that are no longer developmentally appropriate, the speech and language professionals at Smile Speech Therapy can help!

Articulation therapy involves demonstration on how to produce the sound correctly, learning to recognize which sounds are correct vs. incorrect and practicing those sounds in various words. The process of traditional articulation therapy goes through the steps of teaching the target sound in isolation, syllables, words, sentences, stories, conversation and eventually generalizing the target sound in all contexts.

1. Isolation: When working at the isolation level, the therapist will work with your child to practice the target sound all by itself without adding a vowel. For example, if you are practicing the /t/ sound say /t/, /t/, /t/. When the target sound is mastered in isolation, the therapist will move on to syllables.

2. Syllables: When working at the syllable level, the therapist will work with your child to pair the target sound with a vowel in all positions (beginning, middle, end). For example, initial position: ta, to, te, etc., final position: at, it, ot, etc., medial position: atta, etta, otto etc. When the target sound is mastered in syllables, the therapist will move on to words.

3. Words: When working at the word level, the therapist will work with your child to practice the target sound in various word positions. The therapist will often begin with the target in initial position of the word and will practice with your child until the target sound is said correctly at least 80% of the time. The therapist will then proceed by practicing the target in both final and medial word positions, applying the same mastery criteria of 80%.

4. Phrases/Sentences: When working at the phrase level, the therapist will begin with what is referred to as a “carrier phrase.” In a carrier phrase, the sentence stays the same while only the target word changes. For example, the sentence might read, “I see a toy” or “I see a top.” The therapist would then rotate all of their target words through the sentence. Once carrier phrase sentences are mastered, the therapist would encourage more spontaneous sentences allowing for greater opportunities to practice the target sound in various word positions. When the target sound is produced accurately at least 80% of the time, the therapist will move your child on to stories.

5. Stories: When working at the story level, the therapist will select a story with the target sound appearing frequently. The story is read a loud multiple times until the target sound is produced correctly at least 80% of the time. If your child has not yet begun to read, the therapist will work with your child to produce his/her own story, while ensuring that the target sound appears frequently. Once accomplished, the therapist will encourage the retelling of the story in your child’s own words. Once mastered, the therapist will practice the target sound in structured and less structured conversation.

6. Conversation: When working at the conversation level, the therapist will creatively center the conversation topics around previously mastered target words. As inaccurate productions of the target sound come up, the therapist will correct your child and encourage the accurate production of the target.

7. Generalization: Once the target sound has been mastered in words, sentences, stories and conversations, it is important to look out for generalization across all contexts of language. This is often referred to as “carry over.”

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