Traditional Articulation Therapy Explained

You know your child is receiving services at school to work on their speech sounds, but every time you ask your child what they do in therapy, they say, “we work on making funny sounds” or “we just say words and play”. What is your child doing in therapy all day?

Articulation therapy or speech sound therapy is working on the placement of articulators (lips, tongue) inside of their mouth to correctly produce their sounds. To master these sounds, speech language pathologists will break down sounds into 7 different levels.

  1. Isolation Level: If possible, without adding a vowel, your child will work on producing the correct sound in isolation (ex. s or t)
  2. Syllable Level: At this stage we add vowels either before or after the sound to practice making the target sound (ex. ko, koo, kay, key, ki). This helps them put their articulators in the correct placement making the correct sound.
  3. Word Level: Here the target sound is introduced in single words at the beginning, middle, and end of the word (ex. /k/: cat, jacket, back). Many different sounds affect our ability to produce the target sound correctly when its position in the word differs.
  4. Phrase Level: Now that your child has mastered the target sounds in words we add a few words together including a word that contains the target sound in the beginning, middle, and/or end (ex. the black cat).
  5. Sentence Level: Here the target sound will be addressed in grammatically correct sentences (ex. The black cat sat on the wall).
  6. Reading Level: Speech language pathologists may skip this level. Usually this level is addressed when the child is having difficulty carrying over their skill from the sentence level to conversation.
  7. Conversation Level: At this stage your child has almost mastered the target sound. We observe your child producing the target sound correctly during games, conversations, and other tasks, correcting their errors as they occur.

Conversation level can be the most crucial part of determining a child’s readiness for discharge from speech therapy. This level involves a child no longer needing “cues” or “reminders” to correct their speech, but rather requires the child to monitor and correct (if needed) their own speech. It also involves a variety of conversational partners, in various settings, and therefore carryover of their newly acquired speech skills is crucial. After a child has mastered the conversation level in therapy, they may be observed in a classroom setting to ensure that the sound has generalized or that they are successful in using the sound correctly outside of the therapy room. If successful, they will be discharged from therapy for the target sound.

If you continue to have questions about what your child does in therapy sessions, you should speak with your child’s therapist for more detailed information!

Natalie Keller, M.A., CF-SLP

**If you have any concerns with your child’s speech, language, hearing and/or feeding development, please contact Curlee Communication Consultants at (865) 693-5622. We have a team of experienced speech-language pathologists that would love to meet with you and discuss options for your child. **