A child at home on a laptop doing articulation therapy from home

How Does Articulation Therapy Work?

What is Articulation?

Articulation is the act or process of articulating speech or the adjustments and movements of speech organs involved in pronouncing a particular sound. While it may feel natural to many, articulation is truly an art. Proper articulation involves the seamless coordination of multiple body parts and systems, including the tongue, lips, jaws, and vocal cords, to form sounds, syllables, and words. Difficulty in sound production may result in an articulation disorder. 

What is an Articulation Disorder?

An articulation disorder is the persistent difficulty pronouncing specific sounds. For example, someone with an articulation disorder may omit sounds (e.g. saying “ha” for “hat”). They may also substitute sounds (e.g. “dat” for “that”), distort sounds (e.g. foon for spoon), or add extra sounds to words. If a child is suspected to have an articulation disorder, it is best to seek the support of a speech therapist tight away. Learn more about articulation disorders and how speech therapy can help by scheduling your free introductory call today!

What is Articulation Therapy?

During articulation therapy, a speech-language pathologist will work through a hierarchy of levels, starting with correctly producing a certain speech sound in isolation and subsequently moving through all levels until the particular sound is considered to be mastered. A speech sound has been mastered when a child is able to correctly produce it when engaging in conversational speech.

Articulation disorders (also referred to as speech sound disorders) are treated by an experienced speech-language pathologist who specializes in articulation therapy. During the first session, an evaluation will be conducted which will determine whether speech therapy is recommended. If speech therapy is recommended, the speech-language pathologist will outline a treatment plan and expected length of therapy. The frequency of therapy appointments will depend on the severity of your child’s speech sound errors and related communication difficulties.

How Long Does Articulation Therapy Take?

The amount of time to correct these types of speech disorders is usually between 15-20 hours, with the average frequency for articulation treatment being two times weekly for half an hour sessions each time. Therapy may last over the course of several months, and in some cases can span over 2 or more years, depending on the complexity or severity of the communication challenges. For some people, speech therapy is ongoing for an indefinite amount of time as they work towards reaching all of their goals.

How Do You Know If You Or Your Child Need Articulation Therapy? 

As parents, it is easy to adore the “baby talk” your child uses as they grow and develop. It’s true, the way babies and toddlers speak can be very cute and it reaffirms that the child is still a cute, cuddly little one. However, if a child who is 9 years old is still making significant articulation speech errors such as “woom” instead of “room”, they may have a speech sound disorder and articulation therapy should be considered.

Generally speaking, as the cognitive abilities of a child develop, their speech and language skills will also develop. As a child is beginning to communicate, it is normal for them to make errors within their speech. This is how they learn and is not a cause for concern. However, at the age of 3,non-familiar listeners should be able to understand about 75% of the child’s speech, and by their fourth birthday, most children should be able to speak clearly and correctly in general, with few to no pronunciation errors and should be understood almost 100% of the time. You can learn more about the signs of an articulation disorder and how speech therapy can help by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

When Should I Start Articulation Therapy?

Articulation therapy requires that the child they are working with has the ability to follow directions given by the speech therapist. They also must be able to tolerate a variety of cues to help support the appropriate production of the targeted speech sound, pay attention, and imitate the sounds that the therapist is saying. At two years of age or younger, a child’s attention span is shorter than that of a 3 or 4-year-old, and a younger child may become frustrated by some of the direct cueing that is provided during traditional articulation therapy. 

One highly important element of articulation therapy is avoiding negative practice, which means avoiding practicing the child’s target speech sound the incorrect way. The speech-language pathologist will always want to avoid negative practice because they need to support and encourage the correct production of the speech sound and not have the child continue to practice the sound incorrectly. A child who is not yet ready for articulation therapy is a child who is unable to properly follow directions provided by a therapist, unable to pay adequate attention to a therapist’s face, or is unable to imitate/parrot what a therapist is saying.

Articulation therapy should begin as soon as possible, as the longer a child (or adult) goes on producing sounds or speaking incorrectly, the harder it will be to unlearn these habits and replace these speech sound errors with the appropriate sounds. 

How Can I Improve my Speech Articulation?

Apart from time with an experienced speech-language pathologist, there are some exercises and activities that can be done at home to improve your speech articulation. When it comes to correct articulation, practice and repetition are the name of the game. Here are some things you can try at home for improving speech articulation:

Listen to Yourself Speak – Recording yourself speaking and then playing it back can be very helpful to hear where the errors occur. Listen for technical problems, such as filler words, up talk, monotone, and run-on sentences, as well as any habits that might sound awkward or uncomfortable. 

Monitor your Pace/Speed – Try reading a 160-word passage aloud at your normal speed. This should take approximately one minute. This exercise will help to identify whether the pace of your speech needs to be adjusted. 

Eliminate “Filler” Words – One of the reasons we use filler words such as “Um” is to inform your audience that you’re not done expressing your thought or idea and need to further gather your thoughts. Practicing replacing the “ums” and “ahs” with phrases such as “Let’s move on to…”, ‘Another important thing to consider is’, and ‘Let’s transition to discussing…’

Study Others – Articulate speakers learn from studying other articulate speakers. If you are looking for inspiration, find a radio program or podcast you enjoy, and analyze the host’s speech. They have likely eliminated any verbal errors or ticks and can help you identify effective and correct patterns of speech.

Speak with Confidence – One simple way to appear more articulate is to speak with confidence. Even when you’re talking on the phone, the way you hold yourself and speak can impact the way people perceive your thoughts and ideas. Practice extending your vocal cords by keeping your chin parallel to the floor and sitting up as straight as possible. You should also avoid moving your hands too much (research has shown keeping them folded on the table projects trustworthiness).

Articulation therapy is something that can be highly effective for eliminating speech sound errors and improving communication skills in general. You can learn more about Articulation therapy and how it might help you by scheduling your free introductory call today!