It is normal for toddlers to say some sounds the wrong way because some do not develop these speech sounds until he is 4, 5, or 6 years old. You'll hear them replace the letter R with a letter W (saying "wabbit" instead of "rabbit"), shorten words like saying "nana" instead of "banana," and mispronounce sounds such as "sh," "th," and "ph."
But, when he still can't pronounce words right, especially when he is of preschool age, Filipinos often tag the child as "bulol." And his parents become alarmed, wondering if it's a red flag of speech and language delay.
Don't forget kids develop at different paces. If you think there is something wrong, consult your pediatrician who can recommend a speech therapist.
By age 5, you can ideally understand 90 percent of what your child is saying. Many kids often learn how to say letters and pronounce sounds by the time they are 8 years old.
Signs of a speech disorder include not being able to say the letters "p," "b," "m," "h," and "w" right away by the time they turn 2 years old, and not pronouncing the sounds of the letters of "k," "g," "f," "t," "d," and "n," in most words by the time they're age 3. These are the sounds that impact how others may understand what your child is saying.
Talk, sing songs, and read to your child as soon as he is born. For his speech sound development, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Be a good speech model.
While baby talk may help, experts encourage parents to pronounce letter and phonic sounds the right way. A child learns to make sounds when he hears it, so make sure you speak it correctly.
Play with sounds.
Talk about sounds at home and make it fun. Teach animal sounds, play with word alliterations, and letter-and-word association when reading. Enunciate letter sounds when pronouncing words such as the letter "k" when you cough, the letter "v" in "vrooom," the letter "t" in "tick, tock," and the letter "p" in "pop!"
Teach how the sounds feel in the mouth.
Doing mouth and tongue exercises in a fun way can show your child how the pronunciations feel through the lips, tongue, teeth, throat, nose, etc. Use a mirror to help your child visually see how it works.
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Enroll your child in a preschool.
Dos Gallardo-De Jesus, a speech and language pathologist, says you can enroll your toddler with speech delays in a preschool. Interaction with your child's peers may help.
Encourage your child to speak clearly.
Avoid making fun of your child's speech if he is bulol because this will affect his child’s confidence. In the same manner, try not to pressure your child to correct his speech blunders instantly.
Remember, sometimes your little one may need more time. Having your child checked by a speech and language pathologist is the best way to find out if your child has a speech sound disorder. Many reasons can be behind your child's speech difficulty (hearing impairment, cleft palate, etc.). It's better to know about it early, so you and your therapist can do early intervention.