Tips For Children With Unclear Speech

Imagine being in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. You have something important to say but no one can understand you. You can imagine how frustrating it would be. However, many young children experience a similar feelings of frustration because of speech issues. While speech development is fluid and relative, there are some general benchmarks that a child with typical speech development should reach at certain ages. By age 5, a child’s speech should be clear and understandable with the exception of the latest developing sounds which include ‘th, l, r’ and /l/ and /r/-blends (i.e. blue, brush, slide, train). However, by age 8 a child should have all speech sounds being produced accurately and correctly, much like adult speech.

If your child’s speech is unclear, it may be time to take action by working with a Speech-Language Pathologist. However, you can also help your child at home by following these tips:

Talk More

Speak as much as you can while at home, so your child can hear you and learn to follow your speech patterns. Much of what children learn is through imitation. However, make sure you are speaking clearly and enunciating words. Don’t mumble.


When you are talking to your child, speak to them face-to-face. It will make it easier for you to understand what they’re trying to say while allowing them to see the movement of your mouth while speaking. Again, the idea is to model clear speech to them.

Don’t Pretend To Understand

Don’t pretend to understand your child’s speech. It will only reinforce their unclear speech patterns and make it difficult to correct them in the long run. Encourage clearer sounds by putting emphasis on the sound in a word that was produced incorrectly (i.e. if the child says ‘a big thun’ for ‘a big sun’ put emphasis on the /s/ sound in ‘sun’).

Repeat And Model Words

When your child says something to you unclearly, repeat the word properly so they can hear the right way to say it. Be mindful not to shame or embarrass them for their mispronunciation. Rather than saying “no that is incorrect,” just imitate with proper sounds so they may imitate and try in a different way.

Highlighting Sounds

Speak louder and emphasize the sounds that you know your child struggles with. This will help solidify the sound in the child’s mind.

Use Their Interests

Have your child practice their speech while talking about their interests. Children love to talk about the things they like, so use this to your advantage.

Get Professional Help

Helping your child at home will make a difference, but for your child to truly progress in their speech, they will need professional speech therapy. HearSay Speech and Hearing Centre provides speech therapy in Milton and surrounding areas. We will assess your child to see where they need assistance and one of our team of Speech-Language Pathologists or Communicative Disorders Assistants (CDAs) will work with your child to strengthen their ability to communicate effectively. Contact the HearSay Speech and Hearing Centre today to find out how we can help your child.

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