Speech skills for school

Throughout the phases of early development, speech is an evolving skill. From baby-babble to first words, and then on to full sentences, there is much for children and parents to learn. As mothers and fathers, years are spent deciphering your child’s verbal and non-verbal cues, and it’s easy to become accustomed to translating their words for others. After all, you have spent almost half a decade helping them to communicate. Identifying when the time has come to seek help for your child’s speech difficulties can be challenging or confronting the next-step.

The transition period before school is the perfect time to holistically assess your child’s needs including their pronunciation. All too often, sound errors are overlooked as a developmental phase to be grown out of when they can be more serious articulation issues. If left untreated, articulation errors can impact on a child’s literacy, school experience, social skills, and even their employability.

As children learn to read and write in kindergarten, importance will be placed on their phonological awareness. This is an understanding that words are made up of sounds. For example, the word “cup” has three sounds: c-u-p. Being able to recall these sounds quickly is a vital literacy development skill. 

Common pronunciation mistakes like saying, “Sue” instead of “shoe,” or “fin” instead of “thin” can impair their ability to recall the sound of each letter quickly. Without adequate phonics skills, children will struggle to spell and write, ultimately leading to poor literacy.

If left untreated, children with literacy difficulties can lag in the classroom and miss critical educational milestones. As the school years progress, the missed milestones compound and the child is left further behind in their studies. The roll-on effects of their struggle are often found to impact relationships with peer groups, a child’s social skills as well as their own self-esteem. In the long-term, research has shown that poor literacy affects an adult’s ability to gain and retain employment. More seriously, low literacy rates are typical amongst felons.

There are several simple steps you can take to set your child on a speech-path to success.

Correct articulation mistakes: By the age four or five, many children will still have difficulty saying “th” sounds, as well as “v” and “r”. For example, “thanks” becomes “fanks”, “very” becomes “berry,” and “round” is mispronounced “wound.” Take time to correct their speech errors, and slowly sound out the letters in each word together.

Pronunciation mistakes outside of these common sound errors may be an indicator that your child needs specialised assistance to correct their errors. 

Encourage rhyming skills: Regularly reading nursery rhymes and rhyming storybooks will encourage an understanding of spoken words, as will children’s songs. By regularly singing and reading verses together, you help to develop their pre-literacy skills. By school age, most children should have a basic understanding of words that rhyme so they can move onwards and focus on their literacy development.

Explain syllables: Help your child to sound out the beat in words to understand syllables. Use musical instruments or clap your hands to make the learning process a more diverse sensory experience.

Seek professional assistance: Speech pathology is as much as about teaching parents as it is children. By seeking guidance from a speech pathologist, you can learn new techniques to guide your child and improve their articulation. Together, you can encourage better speech habits to ensure a positive school experience that will benefit your child into their teenage and adult life.

Early intervention is always the best way to manage and improve speech habits. If you have concerns about your child’s ability to communicate at school next year, talk to one of our accredited speech pathologists.

To make an appointment at Box Hill Speech Pathology Clinic, phone (03) 9899 5494 or book online at www.speech-therapy.com.au

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