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Therapy Tips

Building Blocks for Children With Speech Sound Disorders

Children with special needs often struggle to speak. This is most likely because the act of speaking is a complex fine motor skill, requiring hundreds of precise, planned, executed and coordinated oral motor movements, which are expressed as vowels and consonants. A great deal of practice is needed for words to become automatic and spoken with ease, fluent and intelligible. Choosing words for practice can seem like an insurmountable task. Here are a few tips as to what words to choose for practice. Ultimately, the goal is for the child to have words to use functionally to express themselves. We should therefore choose words that are motivating for the children to desire to practice. These would be the child’s favorite foods, drinks, toys and activities, their own names and names of the people in their lives. The words don’t have to be perfect, and could be produced with best approximations at first. Working on just three to five of these favorites would be a good place to start. Start With Words It is a good idea to stick with single words, and not to try to move ahead right away into word combinations until the child is comfortable using these single words with success. Another group of words to practice would be those which serve to manipulate the environment. These would be such words as “open, help, move, don’t, want, tie, hi, my, bye, shut, away, go, out, up, and down.” These words are also pivot words which can remain constant while adding another word. This would be the best way to help children to combine words into a two word phrase. So now we have, “hi ____, or bye_____, open_____, more_____, my____, etc.” For more information on ways to work with your child you can visit the website of the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA) for an article on the "Successive Approximation" Method of Therapy for Children with Apraxia of Speech. You may also want to consider reading  “Choosing Words and Building Language for Children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) and other Severe Speech Sound Disorders” which was featured on this spring. Have fun, and praise often! Nancy R. Kaufman, M.A. CCC-SLP, is the owner and director of the Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory Motor and Social Connections. She is known worldwide for her expertise in the area of childhood apraxia of speech and other speech sound disorders, and families from around the globe visit the KCC for evaluation and treatment. For more information about Kaufman and the KCC, please visit

WRITTEN ON November 20, 2013 BY:

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