Speech difficulty

What will the speech and language therapist do?

The speech and language therapist will listen to and assess a child’s speech to find out what type of speech difficulty they have.


The child may require therapy if a speech disorder is detected. This means that the child’s speech development is not following a typical pattern of development.
If the child’s difficulties seem to be resolving then their speech will likely be monitored over a period of time.

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If the child’s speech difficulties are typical for their age and there is no sign of a disorder, they are likely to be discharged.


It may be appropriate for the speech and language therapist to refer to another service, such as audiology for a hearing test.


Find out more information at www.ican.org.uk

Speech difficulty.JPGWhat is a speech difficulty?

A speech sound difficulty is a problem producing sounds correctly in spoken words. Children may do some/all of the following:

  • miss off sounds in words e.g. “bow” for boat or “ig” for pig
  • replace sounds in words e.g. “tar” for car, “dun” for sun, “bee” for pea
  • have a very limited amount of sounds they can use correctly in words. They may have a ‘preferred’ sound which is used to replace lots of other sounds e.g. using d in replacement of t, b, s, f, k, g etc.

Some children are able to produce a target sound correctly in isolation (on its own) but are unable to blend it with other sounds in a word. For other children, they may have difficulty producing a target sound correctly on its own.

What causes a speech difficulty?

The cause of a speech difficulty is not always known but it can be more likely to occur in children who have:

  • difficulties co-ordinating their lips, tongue and palate (often known as verbal dyspraxia)
  • a cleft palate or lip
  • hearing difficulties
  • poor attention, listening and language
  • a family history of speech, language, communication and literacy difficulties.

What can I do to help a person with a speech difficulty?

  • Provide a good model of speech by speaking slowly and clearly and ensuring the child is looking at you when you are talking.
  • Model accurate speech back to the child and avoid asking them to correct themselves or ‘say it properly’ e.g. child: “dar”, adult: “yes it’s a car”.
  • Give praise for their attempts at speaking and respond to what they say, rather than how they say it.
  • Do not pretend you have understood what they are saying if you don’t. Ask for repetition if you are unable to understand. If you still don’t understand, tell the child that you really want to work out what he/she is saying and ask if he/she can show you something to help.
  • Verbally confirm what you think the child said e.g. “did you say……?” or “I think you said…….am I right?” This enables him/her to confirm you have interpreted it correctly or not.
  • Model sounds during play e.g. “pop pop pop” (blowing bubbles), “b, b, b” (bouncing a ball), “ssss” (when you see a snake), “brum” (car), “choo choo” (train), “nee naw” (emergency vehicle), “mmmmmm” (when eating), animal noises (books), “woooo” (wind), “shhhhhh”(when putting teddies and dolls to bed), “bang bang” (drum, banging), “weeeeeee” (on a swing, slide)
  • Follow specific speech advice programs if provided by your speech and language therapist.

Paediatric Speech and Language Therapy Department

Telephone: 01202 443208
Email: dhc.slt.queries@nhs.net

Speech