My Child Needs Speech Therapy, What?

My Child Needs Speech Therapy, What?

I’d like to take a moment to commiserate with those parents struggling to teach their children how to speak clearly, and pronounce sounds correctly. This is Sam, my seven year old Star Wars fighter pilot in his Halloween costume last year. He has been struggling with his /r/ sounds for sometime now. Once in awhile I would check to see if he was stimulable, meaning I would check to see if he could say the /r/ sound correctly in imitation of me. After several trials I would give up and cross my fingers that he would correct the problem on his own, while I continued to help correct the articulation errors of my clients.

I observed that the speech of my clients was continually improving while Sam made no improvement with his /r/ sounds. It reaffirmed to me that doing something makes a difference, so I resolved to finally sit down and begin to work with him.

So we are currently working together on how to make the /r/ sound in isolation (all by itself). The progress is slow, but once in awhile I can get him to say it correctly and we both celebrate! I hope to update this post soon with a super-positive follow up. Here’s to patience and keeping the fingers crossed!


  1. thinking of you as you work with sam on his /r/ sound! hopefully he will be a good student for his mommy (i am sure it is a little different working in a mother/son relationship than with your typical clients.) would doing any of the oral motor exercises (chewy tube, straw hierarchy, etc…) help? just a thought that popped into my head as i read this. thanks again for your wonderful blog 🙂

  2. Thanks Laura,

    I appreciate the encouragement!

  3. I truly understand! I’m a speech-language assistant working in a public elementary school. The kids I saw for /l/ this year made excellent progress, and my son, who didn’t get therapy but occasional reminders to use the /l/ sound when at home, is still having trouble. Not to mention his r, th, and frontal lisp….

  4. I want to say thank you for having this site. My son has been receiving speech services since he was 2 and a half. He’ll be 5 in a couple weeks and thanks to some really great therapists he’s able to be understood about 95% of the time. This school year his therapist is working on his l, th, & ch sounds. So over the summer at home I’m going to be on your site often getting him ready for those sounds.

    Thank you again!

  5. Ugh, /r/ is the worst! My own Sam (almost 5) has a killer frontal lisp he developed (I think!) as the result of 3 years of drinking honey thick liquids. Because that kid did not lisp until he was 2 1/2. Good luck with it! I hope he’s a better client for you than my Sam is for me. He does not appreciate mommy speech therapy.

  6. I just found your blog and LOVE it! I’m looking forward to coming back for regular updates. Good luck!

  7. I found the Speedy Speech Therapy program to be very helpful in correcting my child’s /r/. It has everything needed, gives the oral motor information, has pictures, and supplies. I recommend it.

  8. My 18 month old has been slow to do everything, had Early Intervention to teach him to crawl and walk and has been having speech therapy through them for about 6 weeks. He is starting to babble much more and I believe his receptive skills are improving but I find myself being very impatient. He has occasionally said no or mom but only vowel sounds regularly (oooh) (ah) (oh) (uh) or consonant sounds (bah) (hah). Is there any advice you can give me? We meet with therapist once a week and my son is now in a Mothers Day Out program with other children. My grandmother and my husbands brother both didn’t talk until they were 3. I’m making myself crazy with Internet research and worrying about autism and am now pregnant with my second and this stress and worrying isn’t good.

  9. Autumn,

    I think it is great that you are doing what you can to help your son. It is true that his language is delayed. It sounds like there is some family history of late talking as well. My advice to you would be to make sure you explore all the possibilities of what could be causing the language delay with your speech therapist before you worry too much. There are so many other things that may be causing the delay besides the possibility of autism. It may be that he has had excessive ear infections or fluid behind the ear that you may or may not even be aware of. It could be that he has oral motor weakness in his mouth. It could be that he just needs a little more language stimulation than the typical child. There is also the possibility of autism or other syndromes but I am of the habit of ruling out the most common causes of speech and language delay first.

    As I am sure you will learn from your therapist there are so many things you can do to support his language development now. Some of these things you may already be doing. Things like getting down on your son’s level when you play. Practice taking turns with him while doing what he is interested in. Imitating any gestures or sounds he makes and waiting for him to imitate you. Talk about what he is doing or playing with. Talk about what you are doing. Label everything in your environment for him as much as possible. Give him choices while modeling the words for him. You may also want to try signing with him or using pictures to help him communicate his wants and needs and learn the power of communication.

    These are just a few ideas to get you started but I would recommend that you talk with your therapist and see what he/she suggests. I hope this helps, and really, there’s nothing in your description of your son’s language that would have me too worried just yet. You are doing all the right things by getting help. Take comfort in that and allow yourself to relax a little.


  10. Heidi,
    Thank you for your words of encouragement and advice. We went for my son’s 18 month appointment yesterday and they tested his ears for the first time and did find fluid. We are now being referred to an ENT. We are so thankful for your help and hopeful we are on the right track!

  11. Autumn,

    I am so glad to hear you are getting some answers and the help that you need. Good luck with everything.

  12. I was going through the site,& found it to be very helpful guide.

    My son 3 1/2 With down syndrome is an active child. he is going to pre primary school, his grip is o.k. He has started speaking words after 3, with the help of a speech therapy program by speech therapist. now he speaks single words, & is moving towards 2 word phrases. most of his words are not very clear.
    How can i help him to develop his speech further, kindly guide.

    some poems in his memory, which he tries to speak along with me are in his own language or words like-
    for eg:

    1 2 buckle my shoe – he speaks:-babaaa mab boes

    3 4 knock the door – he speaks :- knoo knoo no

    5 6 pick up the sticks – :- ni na tits

    so its like all these. he tries to speak, meets the nearby rhythm although not words.

    now how should i help him & what plans should i work on.

    Please Guide.


  13. Ritu,

    It is always difficult to give specific suggestions for a child I haven’t seen myself. I would recommend that you follow the advice of your Speech Language Pathologist. But for some general guidelines to improve intelligibility, I would suggest that you request some oral motor exercises you can do at home with your little guy from your therapist. This will ensure he has the strength he needs to begin working on his articulation. Then I would choose a sound he is already saying like /b/, /m/, or /n/ and begin to practice that sound in the initial position of words. Try printing out my word cards from my worksheets page and making them into fun games. He will learn some new vocabulary this way as well. After he has mastered putting the sound you’ve been targeting in the beginning of all the word cards you’ve been practicing, try word cards with that sound at the end of words. From your example it doesn’t look like he uses final sounds very often. This will help a lot in making him more intelligible.

    I hope this is helpful. Good luck!


  14. Hi,
    My 3 y.o RJ has just been diagnosed with severe phonological disorder, and as crazy as it sounds I was not one bit worried. I knew that with a great support system like his pre-school teachers and firends it would be ok. That was until I found out that my insurance would not cover one bit….they are recomending 3 sessions a week and I can’t even affornd one. I don’t know what to do!

  15. Tiffany,

    Insurance companies are frustrating! I am so sorry. Have you looked into speech therapy through the school district? If you live in the U.S. you should qualify for free speech therapy through the school district. You can also look for local private therapists. Private therapy, while expensive, is usually less expensive than therapy through the hospitals. You may also consider paying for one session with a private therapist to get her opinion on where to start or what you can do at home. Sometimes you can find a therapist that would be willing to see you once a month with at home guidelines. I hope this helps.

  16. Thank you so much for this site. I am from the Philippines. I have a son 2.9 years old who was recently diagnosed with verbal apraxia and I am so worried. May I ask if you can diagnose apraxia even if the child is still not talking? Right now, my son has about 10 to 15 words. But my problem is that he will just say the name of an object an when I ask him to repeat it is he doesn’t want to. He is hyperactive and has short attention span.

    Also, he cannot imitate the words that I am saying on that instant but in the next few days he will say the word (appropriate to the object that he is looking at). but he has some consistent words like when he make the sign for give me he will also say the word “gi”.

    I am so worried that he will not be able to talk normally.

  17. Joy,

    There is no definitive test to determine if a person has Apraxia of Speech. The Speech Language Pathologist working with your son likely looked at the presence of a group of symptoms that are associated with Apraxia while ruling out other factors like muscle weakness or hearing loss for example before they made the diagnosis.

    Depending on how severe the apraxia is will determine whether he will be able to talk normally. He is still very young and as far as I can tell from your description he has a very good chance of being a very successful communicator. Get him into speech therapy with a good Speech Language Pathologist and support him however you can. I wish you the best!

  18. hi .
    i m an audiologist and speech language pathologist, Pakistan. i have 2 kids, my elder is two and a half yrs old. she started developing stammering, its been three months .. i tried many therapies. i know its a part of development… but i m much worried being a mother u know. its getting worse day by day, she is showing symptoms of hard glottal attack too.
    kindly help me what i should do …

  19. Hi Fifi,

    I’m so sorry. As a mother and a Speech Pathologist I understand how difficult it is to hear your child struggle with their speech. Especially hearing them stutter. When my daughter was 2 she also began to stutter. One day she said to me, “Mom, I can’t get the words out.” I about started crying right then and there. I opened up my stuttering text book from college and started reading it again from the beginning. I was reminded that between the ages of 2 and 5 it is normal for children to go through a period of developmental disfluency as their language is growing at a dramatic pace. Even after reading this I still wasn’t comforted. I started doing my best to give her my full attention when she spoke to me, modeling slow easy onsets. Fortunately, she did outgrow it.

    So I guess, if I were you, I would continue to do just what you are doing. Continue to model slow easy onsets, a relaxed language rate, decrease distractions in the home as much as possible, give her your attention when she speaks, and I would also continue to read up on stuttering just to be sure I was doing all that I could do. There is no denying we want the very best for our little ones. But try to relax, she may still outgrow it, and if you’re stressed about it she may sense that.

    Wishing you and your daughter the very best!

  20. hi,, i’m indonesian and i have a 4 yr son.. he has speech delay and not so clear in word articulation,, may i know your e-mail? so i could send the video of how my son talking.. thank you

  21. Hi Fenny,

    I would recommend you contact a speech pathologist in your area that will be able to better serve your son.

    Wishing you the very best!

  22. Dear Heidi,
    Congrats on your great work on speech therapy..
    It has helped us a lot..

    I have twin 3 year old girls.They started attending summer preschool a month ago.Their teacher is of the opinion that they are both speech delayed.We speak our native indian language at home.But I do read them story books from library in English.They also watch cartoons on TV.I have scheduled them already to be evaluated at a local child development center here in lakewood,CA.
    After going through your website i saw the tips for pronouncing various sounds.My kids are saying almost all words correctly.But they are not able to speak in short sentences.For example,they would ask for water by just saying the word water but not i want water.or say potty but not i want to go to potty.I have been called enabler by our pediatrician.he says that i should not give them what they want even if they cry or throw a tantrum.I don’t know how to enforce this habit.Whenever I talk i say the sentence and ask them to repeat it.But they are not interested once they get what they want.
    Is there any technique/tips we(my husband and I) can use at home to help them speak while we wait for the speech therapy session?

    Thanks in advance,

  23. Hi Remya,

    I think you are on the right track by taking them to be evaluated if their teachers are concerned. Also, you have to keep in mind that they are learning 2 languages at the same time. So, progress will be slower. However, they will be bilingual in the end which will be a big positive for them for the rest of their lives. What you need to determine is if they are delayed in both languages. Are they able to speak in phrases and sentences in their native language? If so, I would not be very concerned. You are doing the right thing by modeling the correct language structure for them. If they say “Water” then you would say “Oh, you want a glass of water! You must be thirsty! I will get you a glass of water.” The point is to give them multiple opportunities to hear the word and the vocabulary associated with that word. You will eventually want to encourage them to add more words starting with “Please” So, if they say “Water” you would encourage them to say “Water Please” once they get that you will up the ante and have them say “I want water please” Meal times and snack times are the best time to practice this.

    Good luck!