During the toddler years, children often use patterns of sound errors (also known as Phonological Processes) to simplify adult speech. To learn more about these phonological processes, click here. A process that we see children use very often is known as “fronting”. This occurs when children substitute the /k/ and /g/ sounds with the /t/ and /d/ sounds. The/ k/ and /g/ sounds, also known as velar sounds, are produced in the back of the mouth with the back of the tongue touching the velum (soft palate). The /t/ and /d/ sounds, also known as alveolar sounds, are produced in the front of the mouth. You may hear your child say, “tar” for “car” or “bite” for “bike” or “do” for “go.” By 3-3 ½ years of age, many children master these velar sounds. However, some children have a harder time learning these sounds. It doesn’t help that your child can’t see these sounds being produced! These are the most difficult sounds for our young ones to visualize! Here are some tips for what you can do at home to facilitate your child’s production of these “back” sounds.
*Have your child sit directly in front of you. Model the sound for your child with your mouth as open as possible. While you say the sound, touch your upper throat and explain to your child that this is where the sound is being made. Then, have your child touch his/her throat to feel where the sound comes from. Your child may need some help finding the correct place. Encourage self-awareness and use a mirror to direct your child.
*Before you ask your child to produce the /k/ sound, ask him/her to cough. Coughing gives a child a more concrete way of learning the correct placement of the /k/ sound.
*Gravity! Have your child lie down on his/her back. Your child’s tongue will automatically touch the back of his/her mouth. Practice the /k/ sound in isolation.
*Once your child can produce the sound correctly in isolation, begin to practice the sound in syllables, words, phrases and sentences. Try to make practice fun by using highly motivating toys and games. It is never a good thing to push your child to practice especially if he/she is tired or hungry. If you see your child needs a break, take one!
*Throughout the day, try to be aware of your own speech. While you talk to your child, be sure to emphasize and exaggerate the /k/ sound in words. For example, you might say to your child, “Come see this Cat.” Your child hears the sounds and will hopefully imitate these words correctly when he/she says them.
*Remember to provide positive and specific feedback to your child such as, “That was great! I heard the sound coming from the back of your mouth.”
*You may wonder if you need to teach your child the velar /g/ sound as well. Very often, it is not necessary to teach the /g/ sound as it usually develops on its own once a child is able to produce the /k/ sound.