Strategies for helping a child with speech sound difficulties

Children with speech sound difficulties can often be hard to understand, especially if their difficulties affect several sounds or groups of sounds. This can cause them a lot of frustration, especially if they have to repeat themselves constantly – even as adults, this can be very annoying!

Take a look at our post on ‘Speech Sound Difficulties’ if you’d like to find out more information about this topic or if you’re concerned your child may be having difficulties with the development of their speech sounds (link).

Here are a few common strategies to try if your child has speech sound difficulties and can be hard to understand:

  1. Try your best to avoid correcting your child’s speech sound errors or making them say it again. This won’t help your child’s production and it could knock their confidence. The best thing to do is to model the word back to them in a natural way, for example:

Child: “Mummy, it’s a gog.”

Parent: “Yes it’s a big dog.”

  1. Get on your child’s level and play with them face-to-face. This way they can see your face clearly when you are speaking and can see how your mouth moves when you produce different sounds.
  2. If you struggled to understand what your child has said, you can:
    1. Ask them to say it again but in a positive way, e.g. “my ears missed that, can you say it again please?”
    2. Repeat back what you did understand so that they just have to repeat what you missed
    3. Try and tune into the general topic of what they might be talking about (if you have a home-school communication book, this might help)
    4. Ask your child to show you or take you to what they are talking about, you can use gesture to do this too (using Makaton signs may also be helpful)
  3. Be positive about your child’s speech and show interest in what they are speaking about rather than how ‘correct’ they can say the sounds in each word.
    • If people keep correcting them, it may affect their confidence and they might stop talking as much or become embarrassed about their speech. If a child is more confident and chatty, they will be practising and improving their talking naturally.
  4. Try to avoid asking tons of questions or asking your child to name lots of items.
    • It’s more helpful for your child if you talk about what is happening when reading books or during an activity – like giving a commentary on what’s happening. This is a much better way of modelling speech sounds and puts less pressure on the child than asking questions. It’s also good to try and speak more slowly, especially if your child is a fast talker.
  5. Encourage them to use their ‘listening skills’ – this is important in developing your child’s speech sounds.
    • Playing listening games such as being quiet and saying what you can hear e.g. next door’s dog, a fire engine, a ticking clock. You can even make it into a ‘Simon says’ type of game by copying the sounds you hear or making noises that your child can copy.

Give these strategies a go, but if you have any concerns about your child’s speech sounds do not hesitate to contact us to speak to one of our speech and language therapists at or call 0330 088 2298.

About Lisa

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