Q: Our child has problems with pronouncing many letter sounds and he does not seem to notice that himself. Sometimes we do not understand what he is saying.  

A: From what you describe it sounds like you would need the support of a speech and language therapist, but there are some things you can try at home and I will do my best to guide you through it. Before you start, I think you should talk about this with your child. Ask if your child think it is a problem, and if he thinks it is a problem you can tell him that you want to help him and that you will do this together as a team. Everyone has things you are good at and things you need to work on a little extra.

Start by listening for the letter sounds. It is important that the child can distinguish the letter sounds in order to know when and how to use them. Being able to distinguish the letter sounds is also an important abilty to have when learning to read and write. Can your child hear the difference between the letter sounds? Can he hear if a a word contains a specific sound? If so, can he here where in the word the sound is; in the beginning, middle or end of the word? Use pictures to illustrate the letter sounds. Here you need to be creative. Maybe the “s”-sound can be a snake saying “sssssss” or the “k”-sound can be a hammer hammering on something saying “k, k, k” It is important that you use the letter sounds and not the letter names. For example if you talk about the hammer-sound you should not say “kay, kay, kay” but “k, k, k”.   

Here is a video of how speech and language therapy also can be practiced.

Contrast the sounds to each other. For example, if the child pronounce “k” as “t”, you can start by listening to those particular sounds (eg. cow – does it begin with a “k” or “t”? How about teddy – does it begin with a “k” or “t”?). The focus should always be on how the letters sound and not on the letter names. Make it a game, maybe a treasure hunt on the way home from preschool where you can pick up words that start with different letter sounds.

When your child seem to know the difference between the letter sounds, you can move on to pronunciation. Talk about where the sounds are in your mouth and think about where the tongue should be. For example, “k” and “g” are pronounced in the back of the mouth, while “t” and “d” are pronounced in the front. Go slowly and focus on a few sounds at a time. Start pronouncing the sounds in words. At first, select words that begin with the letter sounds. Use the words you found in the treasure hunt. Expect this to take time and do not go too fast. A reward system can be good to use, such as putting stars in a book every time you try to say the words (whether it gets right or wrong). If things are going well and the child is able to say the words, you can try to say words that have the letter sounds in the middle or at the end.

Good luck och don’t forget to sign up for my educational e-mail series!