Speech Sound Development in Children: Level 2-Middle Developing Sounds
Hi, my name is Amy King, and I am a speech-language pathologist. During our last blog, we focused on the early developing speech sounds which were P, B, M, N, W, D, and H. This month we are going to focus on the next set of developing speech sounds, or the middle developing speech sounds. Some of these middle developing sounds we’ll explore today are: K, G, F, T, and Y.
As we discussed last month, children’s speech sounds develop from the time they begin babbling their first sounds as babies all the way until half way through elementary school. This month we are going to be talking about the middle developing sounds, which are typically acquired by both boys and girls between 2 and 4 years of age. Take a look at this developmental chart which is linked on ASHA’s webpage.
Lets start with K and G. These two sounds are sister sounds because they are made in the same place in the mouth….in the back. It is very common for 1 to 3 year olds to “front these sounds.” In other words children produce a front sound D for G as in “do mommy” for “go mommy” or a front sound T for K as in “tootie for cookie.” This typically begins to diminish around age 3. If your child is having trouble with the K and G that are produced in the back of the mouth, I have found that practicing the “coughing sound” for K and the gagging/gurgling sound for G is a natural way to position the tongue for these sounds. Practicing coughing actually produces the K plush U vowel “kuh, kuh” and the gaggling/gurgling produces the G plus U vowel “guh, guh.” It is important to exaggerate the coughing/gurgling sound as you move into K plus vowel and G plus vowel combinations (ka, ko, ke) (go, ga, ge) and initial K and G words. I tend to put my hand on my throat as a visual cue for kids and really exaggerate the K and G sounds. If your child has trouble with this, I have found that offering them an edible treat (i.e. goldfish, gummy, etc) while working on these two sounds is very beneficial. When we eat, our tongue naturally moves the food backwards towards our throat in preparation to swallow. I have found that children have success with the K and G sound in preparation to swallow because their tongue is already back. Some children who have a very sensitive gag reflex have extreme difficulty producing K and G because of the way it feels. If your child is orally sensitive or defensive (i.e. gags easily, doesn’t like to have their teeth brushed, is resistant to food textures, etc..) there could be some underlying oral-motor sensory components or something atypical in the oral structure that need to be assessed. If you have any concerns that your child is physically unable to move their mouth/tongue, or feel that they are abnormally sensitive or defensive with their mouth, please consult with your pediatrician and dentist first.
The next sound we’ll look at is F. I call F the lip biter sound because its made by essentially biting the lower lip and blowing out air. I recommend getting a mirror, letting the child look in the mirror. See if they can imitate your movement of biting the lower lip and blowing out air. Once they can make this sound in isolation, move to F plus vowels (fa, fo, fe, fay) and then initial F words.
T is the next sound. It is in the same family as D and N we talked about last month. These three sounds are made by lifting the tongue tip up to the ridge behind the top front teeth. If your child is having difficulty lifting their tongue tip, try dabbing some yogurt/cream cheese/peanut butter up on that ridge behind their top front teeth and see if they can get it. You can also get a cheerio or fruit loop and see if they can hold it up on the ridge with their tongue to practice tongue tip elevation. If you feel your child is not physically able to lift their tongue, a brief oral-motor exam by a dentist may be warranted first to see if there are any physical or structural reasons in the mouth prohibiting adequate tongue movement for speech (i.e. shortened frenulum, problems with gums etc..). Once they can lift that tongue tip up, see if they can then quickly release the tip to make the T sound. As with all other sounds, move to T plus vowels (ta, to, te) and then intial T words.
Lastly this month, lets look at the Y sound. First model the sound for your child and see if they can make it. If not pull that mirror out. Model for them the “ee” sound and then transition into “uh”. The combination of ee + uh makes the Y sound! Once they have the sound in isolation, move into Y plus vowels (ya, yo, ye) and then initial Y words.
Please check out any links we’ve provided. In addition is some information if you feel your child may have any oral-motor sensitivities that are impacting their feeding or speech sound production. Please contact us if you have any questions. We are able to evaluate and treat your child in the home, school, or our clinic setting.