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Why It’s Important for Older Children to Commit to Articulation Therapy

Teenage Girl Sitting On the Ground Talking to Speech Therapist
When it comes to a child’s mispronunciation of sounds (also known as an articulation difficulty or disorder), parents and pediatricians sometimes choose to take a “wait and see” approach.

After all, it is considered normal for children to have trouble articulating certain speech sounds at a young age.

But while articulation disorders like having a lisp or saying “wabbit” for rabbit might’ve once seemed kind of cute, they can actually have some negative implications for older children.

Why is it so important for older children to commit to articulation therapy? And…how can you keep your child motivated to work on improving their articulation? Let’s explore!

Speech Sound Disorders

If your child has trouble articulating specific sounds, checking the milestones for speech sound development is a good place to start.

The chart above shows the ages at which a child should be able to produce certain sounds in the initial (beginning), medial (middle), and final (end) position of words.

When a child isn’t able to articulate the sounds that are expected at their age, they may be diagnosed by a Speech Therapist as having an Articulation Disorder. As you can see, a child should be able to articulate all sounds correctly by age 8.

So, what about the 10% of children who have a developmental speech sound disorder (also known as an Articulation Disorder)?

It’s typically recommended that those children receive speech therapy to work on articulating sounds that are expected to have developed by their age.
For an older child who isn’t receiving speech therapy, parents might wonder – Is there still a chance that he or she can “grow out of” having trouble with pronunciation?

Implications of Articulation Disorders

If an older child has an Articulation Disorder, it’s unlikely that their speech will spontaneously improve without any intervention.
In fact, the longer a child has been making articulation errors in their speech, the more work it can require for them to correct those established habits.
That hard work in Speech Therapy is surely important though!

Articulation disorders can put a child at risk for social, emotional, and academic challenges.

According to research, speech impairments are associated with:

  • Lowered academic expectations
  • Trouble with initiating and maintaining relationships with peers
  • Higher levels of parental anxiety
  • Increased risk for literacy difficulties
  • More difficulties in the workplace
Knowing this can motivate parents to want their child to improve their articulation skills.
But what about the child themself? Some older children have been receiving therapy for years and are burnt out. Some might be tired after school, or rather spend their free time doing other activities.
Being motivated in speech therapy is one of the keys to making improvements, but how can you get your child to that level? Here are some things that can help!

Motivation Boosters in Articulation Therapy

#1: Let’s Be Honest.

Consider having an honest discussion with your child to help him or her become more self-motivated to commit to articulation therapy.
If a child is school-aged or older, you can likely be up front with them about why they might want to work hard in Speech Therapy.
Talk to your child about their difficulty articulating sounds in an open, positive way. In your discussion, try finding out if your child seems aware of their speech difficulty and how it makes them feel.
Do they ever get frustrated when others don’t understand them? Do they avoid certain situations because they’re worried others will notice that they pronounce words differently than others?
Some children may feel embarrassed or self-conscious about their speech. So, take caution and remind your child their skills can improve by going to Speech Therapy!

Help your child come up with a list of goals to work towards as their articulation improves. Does your child want to feel more comfortable making new friends? Starting a conversation with classmates? Raising their hand in class? Writing these down can help your child stay motivated to work hard in order to reach their own goals.

#2: Build off of Interests

When a child is more motivated and engaged during Speech Therapy sessions, it can boost the level of progress he or she makes towards improving their articulation.

For most older children, that means not reading a list of words or naming flashcards with words that include a sound they’re working on.

Whether your child is into Legos, football, science experiments, or anything else, build off of what interests them in order to keep their attention. Share your child’s hobbies and interests with their speech therapist, so they can incorporate related activities into sessions.

While practicing speech sounds at home, try making it FUN!
Tape words onto a football. Throw it back and forth, and when your child catches it, he or she can pick a word to practice.
While reading a favorite book, ask your child to write down 10 words that have the sound they’re practicing!

#3: Play Games!

Another way to keep your child committed to articulation therapy? Play games!
A great way to encourage an older child to work on their articulation is by incorporating games on a tablet or computer.

According to research, games involving technology that target therapy goals can be potentially effective tools for “promoting knowledge and training various skills.”

In Speech Therapy sessions and at home, you can increase your child’s motivation by embedding target sounds or words into their favorite game or activity!
  • Board games (like Connect Four and Trouble)
  • Card Games (like Go Fish, with cards picturing words that have a sound they’re practicing)
  • Online games (look for ones that include a specific sound for your child, such as those on ABCYa and Kokolingo

Additional Resources

Maintaining an older child’s motivation in articulation therapy isn’t always easy. But because of the potential effects of articulation disorders and the practice required to improve speech skills in older children, it’s worth trying out some different tactics!
If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language, fine motor, or gross motor skills, he or she may benefit from specialized services from a speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or physical therapist. An initial evaluation can help determine what difficulties your child is having. Ongoing individualized therapy can include techniques and activities to help improve these areas.

TherapyWorks offers speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy both in person (in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio) and through teletherapy (nationwide). If you would like to learn more, or discuss your child’s specific needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to TherapyWorks!

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