I can’t understand my child’s words!

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My child is finally beginning to use words, but I can’t understand anything he/she says…

At this young age, it is normal to not understand everything your child says. Generally, a simple way to determine your child’s intelligibility (or his/her ability to be understood by others) is to take your child’s age and divide by four.   This determines the amount (percent) of your child’s speech that you should understand (i.e. 2 years/4=50%).  This may change depending on context and complexity of what your child is saying. Additionally, unfamiliar listeners may understand even less of what your child is saying.

The focus of intervention prior to age three is to make sure your child’s language skills are near age-appropriate before solely focusing on  his/her intelligibility.  When it is appropriate to begin targeting speech sounds, make it fun!  For example, you can give sounds different names:

/p/- popper sound

/b/- bounce sound

/m/- yummy sound

/h/- laughing sound

You can also make fun noises throughout play activities that contain difficult sounds for your child:

  • scared noises (i.e.“ah” or  “ee” to work on vowels)
  • find animal noises that contain the sound (i.e. “baa” to target consonant or vowel sound)
  • sneeze sounds (“achoo”)
  • Practice sounds in silly places: in front of a mirror before bedtime or in the car