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Helping 4 Year Old with Speech Issues

I'm wondering if any of you have experience with helping your children learn to say letter sounds that they are having trouble with? At my son's 4 year appointment several months ago his ped. suggested that I start working on correcting some of his speech difficulties (r's, sh, th, and ch are the main ones) We can help him say ch, th and sh correctly by reminding him and saying the word several times with him, but he just can't seem to make the "r" sound properly, no matter where in the word it appears. Do any of you have any ideas or know fun game-like exercises that I could do with him to help him get his mouth to properly form r's? I want to stay super low-key about this, and I know most kids correct these things on their own as they mature. But I figured if I could help him slowly work on it in a way that would stay fun and lighthearted for him, it would help him to be understood better by adults and boost his confidence (not that he has much difficulty with that, he is very communicative and talkative and most people can understand him just fine. Friends joke that he sounds Bostonian. :-) But I'm sure you get my drift!


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Thanks for all the great advice AND reassurances. I think I will call our school district this week and see about getting him in for a speech evaluation. Then we'll just go from there. Thanks again!

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hey when i was young I had speech difficulties as well! I was diagnosed with a sub-mucosal cleft palate when i was five. Has this been ruled out yet if not it is like a five second diagnosis they just look in the back of the throught. Other then that I dont know what to tell you!

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Bless you for asking, H. --- QUICK like a bunny make an appt with a speech therapist in your school district and trust me -- r and y are NOT developed at 4 --- that would NOT be an appropriate expectation ( special ed teacher - worked with speech pathologists who specialized in early childhood development for over 20 years ) ----- it will come in time- and truly- all the sounds you set out ( the combination sounds - ch - sh - etc ) are slow - and will 'bloom' over the next months. Why did your ped. raise the issue ????? Each person ( even a pediatrician) has their own prejudices and imperfections. Trust me - and get that second opinion ( froom the school) How??? Call your districts special ed office- explain your pediatricians concern- and ask them to make your son a '''focus of interest'' -- they will- and will set in motion a process where the school will call you in and have a speech therapist play with him, then evaluate his speech. In the ( in my opinion) unlikely event that he needs help- they will set it up -- all districts provide programs for children birth up if there is an identified issue ( like speech -- behavior--- motor --- cognition---) ANY of those -- and that is ---sadly --- one of the best kept secrets in the country- it's sad - as a few weeks of support now means a child can fly like an eagle in school---.

aka - old Mom

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hey when i was young I had speech difficulties as well! I was diagnosed with a sub-mucosal cleft palate when i was five. Has this been ruled out yet if not it is like a five second diagnosis they just look in the back of the throught. Other then that I dont know what to tell you!

1 mom found this helpful

My first suggestion is to not worry about the r sound. My daughter was in speech therapy starting when she was 3. She needed help with her articulation. With help, she learned all her sounds except r before she started kindergarten. The speech therapist worked with her on r for a little while, but my daughter just got frustrated. After a month or so, the speech therapist suggested that she was ready to "graduate" from speech therapy. She said that many kids can't make the r sound at that age. It is physically difficult for them. She also said that with only the r sound missing, my daughter wouldn't even qualify for speech therapy if she were tested again. My daughter is seven now and has mastered the r sound on her own, without any guidance from anyone.

That being said, if you are determined to teach your son how to say an r sound, I would try to focus on saying it at the end of words. It is generally easier to master in that part of a word. After he starts saying it at the end of words, you can start having him say words slurred together, like airrrobin, or earrrrun. Then gradually have him separate the two words. It might help him to then say the r at the beginning of words.

If you think your son's problem is severe enough, elementary schools offer speech therapy services to preschool kids free of charge. Contact the school district and find out what you have to do to have your son tested. They will be able to tell you what kind of help your son needs.

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It wasn't until I was in the second grade when someone asked my parents how long we had lived in Boston (when we had never been) that they realized I had a speech problem with not being able to say my "r's". It took a year of speech therapy to fix it and I have no problems now. The speech therapy involved me saying words with "r" in them, empahsizing the "r", over and over. I would walk aroudn the house saying "carrrrrrrr" and the such. It's still a joke in my family to this day because everyone was involved in it and helped me not feel strange by having to emphasize the "r's". I'd try to work on words that end in "r", heavily pronouncing the "r". I was teased as soon as I got into Kindegarten, but never told my parents about it. If he is getting into Kindergarten soon, they have speech therapy programs in schools that you may be able to check into through the Head Start program.
Good Luck!

Please don't brush this under the rug! My daughter also had (has) difficulties with the "r" sound. I wish we would have been told when she was 4 - not when she was 8. The sooner you can learn the tools to help your son, the better. And if you have insurance, they will sometimes cover speech therapy if it is caught very young. Ours didn't cover it after 4. Your local elementary school should be able to put you in contact with a resource in the school district to help! good luck! p.s. we also got the boston accent comment!!

HI, my son is 5 1/2 now and has been in early childhood for a year now. He has been diagnosed as a High functioning Autistic. When he was two I noticed he was not much on talking and had a hard time communicating. When he turned four I took post it and wrote "chair" and placed it on the chair. when he would walk by or use the items that were marked he would say them. He is now 5 1/2 and we are working on reading sight words(car, house, tree, so on)I found some flash cards at Wal-Mart that you place 3 cards together to spell the words and has the picture of the word (like a puzzle. I also point to each word when I am reading to him. His speech and reading skills has improved 90%, he still has a couple letters he has trouble saying in a word (like truck -fruck.) Will you son be old enough to start school in the fall? If so, contact the school he will be going to and the speech pathologist will test him and let you know if he will need extra help. good luck and keep up the good work.

My 6 year old daughter also has issues with her r's. You could try giving him a little piece of hard candy (sugarfree if you prefer) and place it on his tongue while having him repeat words with the r sound. This was the therapy for my best friend's little girl and it seemed to teach them how to hold their tongue to get the correct sound. Hope this helps.

If you are in Wash state you can take your child to any public school and get speech help. My son also had those issues and they "cured" the problem in something like three months.


Good for you for wanting to help your son. Two years ago my son was 3 1/2 and I was being pushed by everyone that knew us, and my son, well to put him in speech therapy. His speech was that bad. I just didn't think therapy was right for him. Made me feel like a failure as a parent. Anyway, long story short, after 1 year at home with me and some serious one-on-one working with his speech he can be understood by most adults. He is now 5 1/2, and still has some problems with his "r" sound, and saying his name.

Hang in there, and just keep repeating the correct sounds and get him to look at your mouth shapes as you teach. That really seemed to help.

Good Luck!

The "R" sound comes much later. He could be 8 or 9 before it is mastered. If you live in Oregon look up North West Reginal ESD or Early Intervention. They can do a free evaluation and offer services. The Washington County site is on Ray Circle in Hillsboro I believe. I don't have the phone number on hand. Hopefully this helps.

My friends also comment that my daughter sounds like she has an accent. When she was four, I took her for a speech-language assessment (through Kaiser). It was completely low key and very fun for her. I got some good information and reassurance. I don't have much time to write details now but I wanted to say that I do remember her telling me NOT to work on the R sound as it would probably come in naturally and if not, is very hard to teach. She said they don't start working on that until 7 years old. I would recommend you get an assessment for you son. At four, they are old enough to have any sense of stigma or concern about something like that and it would probably be very helpful for you. It was for me and my daughter. Good luck!

My son receives speech therapy through the school district. They do therapy by playing and interacting. My son has no idea and loves it. Some suggestions I would give from observing would be: if he likes cars have him play and say "vroom", Dinosaurs "rawr", etc. Think of things that make the "r" sound. The therapist also suggested when he's brushing his teeth have him look in the mirror and make funny exaggerated sounds and mouth shapes with you.

My son went to speech therapy and r's were one on his problems. She had him blow bubbles and kiss with a very puckered lip and do things that would strengthen his lips and muscles around the mouth and to get use to making that movement with your mouth when you say r's. She had him do some tongue exercises too, like touch the way back part of the roof of his mouth then the mid part of the roof then the back of teeth, the front of teeth , then right and left side of lips, stick tongue out ect. you can make things up as you go along. Have him do each thing 5-10 time. She also had a bunch of toys with the r sound . They would play with them and she would keep most of with her and she would say thinks like wouldn't it be fun to play with the radio of corse he would say yes so she would say ask me for it and then she would make the sound with him and they would work on the word (you say it, he says it and together) a few times and then they would play a few minutes with the radio. Then do the same thing with another object. It was basically playing with some corrections and working together.
Hope this helps!

I have "B-a-s-t-o-n" sounding boys as well! Maybe saying "ERRR" like that really irks me, just when you talk, or teach him to say that when he is irritated by something. Just so he practices. I am sure it will work itself out, dont worry. One of my stepsons couldn't say his R's either and called me "Ka-ma"...I still miss that and so does my hubby. He took speech in school and I dont even notice it anymore, although my sister does. I think it is kinda cute! It is just him...its not a big deal, at all!


Follow Judy's advice! Even if it turns out to be a non-issue, they will give you that second opinion that might help you. School Districts receive funding for these kinds of services from the government, even for kids too young to be in school.

The great thing about speech therapy with pre-preschoolers is that they haven't had the "stigma" of being teased at school yet to think that going to speech therapy is a bad thing. My brother could not pronounce his "ls" properly and in Kindergarten they pulled him for speech. By then he had been teased by the other kids for saying things like, "yewwow" instead of "yellow". He dreaded speech class, but he went and was determined to not keep going. The great thing was that his speech issue was corrected EARLY! My parents wished they would have taken him sooner.

Something wonderful you mentioned is that he is a talkative 4y/o! Lots of kids his age (and even younger) with speech issues get so frustrated they start to shut down their verbalization. Sounds like he's got a good-sport attitude about it all, something that will work in his favor!

Best wishes!

The speech impediments you have descriped are common for four-year-olds. Until he is 6 years old, it is not really considered a problem. I work in the field of early childhood education, and what they recommend to us is to nonchalantly repeat and correct what they said, such as: "My Daddy goed to the store."
"Oh, your Daddy went to the store? Did you go with him?"
"I want to pway wiff dat."
"You want to play with that? Okay, ask if you can please have a turn." etc.
My daughters are teenagers now, and I miss going to the "Movie featers" (theaters) and eating "bizanya" (lasagna) and so many other things. He will move beyond this all too soon! :) Blessings to you and yours!

You may want to have your son work with a speech therapist. There could be a physical/mechanical issue that causes him to mispronounce words. Scottish Rite Center for Childhood Language Disorders (now known as Kids Speak) has centers around the state of Washington and in Oregon. They help kids with speech issues, it might be worth a call and appointment. They don't charge for their services. Contributions are always welcomed. Either that or make an appointment thru Children's Medical Center in Seattle or children's medical facility near your home.

You want to make sure that folks can understand what he's saying as he enters school.

If it doesn't improve by the time he is in school, you can have him evaluated for speech therapy at school. It is free to you and really helps. My oldest you couldn't understand a word he said. He went to speech through his school and it really helped.

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