Listen to Me!!!!!!!
As parents and clinicians, we all want children to be able to communicate to the best of their ability. Our intentions are always good when we correct their speech, grammar or vocabulary. However, as adults we must always keep in mind the purpose behind communicating.
We use speech and language to share a message with a listener. We are expressing meaning to our partner and it is important to us that our message is received and acknowledged. The bottom line is that most kids really don’t care if their ‘s’’ sounds like a ‘th’ or their ‘r’ sounds like a ‘w’ as long as the message gets through. If Bobby says, “Look mommy at the wabbit”….we all know that he’s talking about a ‘rabbit’. The meaning got through so why is it really necessary to change it up?
I had a parent report to me once that their child who was receiving speech therapy said to them, “You don’t care about what I am saying. You only care about how I say it.” Wow! Now that’s insight from a 5 year old. These are the children who will shut down trying to make improvements because their message is being ignored for the sake of structure or precision. As communication partners, we must always acknowledge the message and if we don’t understand it ask the child to say it another way or show you. Then target the structure without any expectation that the child has to repeat the word. For example, “Oh wow! I see that rabbit! He’s by the garden.” When you say the ‘r’ in rabbit, you can emphasize it and make it stand out just a bit by making it a bit louder or longer by stretching it slightly. By doing this you are calling your child’s attention to that sound without ignoring the meaning of the message. If they attempt to imitate it back, regardless of their success, then you reward their attempt with enthusiasm. That’s where it ends. Multiple repetitions and trials are unnecessary and usually unwelcome. The reward comes with trying to change it. If the child so chooses to try again…..well that’s another big hurrah! Learning to articulate sounds should be fun and not a chore.