5 Ways to Increase your Child’s Intelligibility

Intelligibility refers to how clearly a child is able to speak and how much of their speech an adult is able to understand. Often, parents are able to understand a child’s speech much better than others due to familiarity. However, it is important address your child’s intelligibility so that they will be able to clearly communicate with others. How can you work on your child’s intelligibility at home? Below, we recommend 5 ways to increase your child’s intelligibility.

By the time your child is 3 years old, they should be combining 3+ words into phrases and sentences. At this time, parents should be able to understand about 80% of their child’s speech. By 4 years old, children are using longer and more complex sentences. Parents should be able to understand almost 100% of their speech. Do others find it difficult to understand your child’s speech? If so, these tips for parents may be useful to you.

1. Slow Down your Speech

Slow down your rate of speech and enunciate your words. Children are learning vocabulary and how to string together words at a rapid rate. For adults, speaking rapidly comes natural to us. For children, this rate of speech and make it difficult for them to hear the entire word. For instance, children may delete the final sounds in words because they do not clearly hear the ending of one word before another begins. When modeling clear speech for your child, slow down. We call this turtle talk. Speak with a pause between each word and exaggerate each word.

2. Face your Child When Speaking

Face your child during conversations so that they can see your mouth movements. Children who have a lower rate of intelligibility, often do not move their mouth and tongue appropriately to produce clear speech. By encouraging eye contact and facing your child, you are providing a direct model. For example, if your child says “ony” for “pony,” ensure they can see your lips when producing “p.” It also helps for the child to look in the mirror so they can see if their lips come together or not for “p.”

3. Build your Child’s Speech Awareness

Parents often become accustomed to their child’s speech patterns. They are able to understand a phrase or sentence that others may not. Do not get in the habit of responding to requests that are not clear. Use these times to build your child’s awareness that their speech is not understood. Focus on feedback such as, “I couldn’t understand that, can you tell me again slower?” Model the phrase using turtle talk and ask them to repeat. When their speech is clear, immediately give positive feedback and respond to requests.

4. Use Sentence Pacers

If your child is having difficulty with verbal prompts and feedback, they may need visual support. Use sentence pacers to practice slowing down your child’s speech. Sentence pacers are a great way to practice clear speech with a visual reminder to produce each word in a sentence. You can create your own or find examples like the one below online.

5. Monitor Developmental Speech Sounds

Speech sounds such as /b, m, k, r, l, and s/ all develop at different times from 2-7 years of age. By the time your child is seven years old, they should be producing every sound accurately. Take this into consideration when speech is unintelligible. Is this an issue with production and intelligibility or is this normal for their age? Ensure your child is able to produce age-appropriate speech sounds by checking out our developmental guideline for speech sound development. It is also important to monitor phonological awareness. For example, the omission of sounds in the initial and final positions of words and deletion of sounds in words.

If you have concerns over your child’s speech production and intelligibility, consult with speech language pathologist. At Connect Teletherapy, we offer basic screenings or full evaluations. A screening is a 15-30 minute consultation where an SLP will talk with your child and listen for unintelligible speech an/or speech sound errors. A full evaluation includes a standardized assessment of your child expressive and receptive language skills along with speech sound production. Identifying speech needs early is the best way to ensure your child’s success and confidence in the world.

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