speech building block

What is speech? 

‘Speech’ is the sounds we put together to form words. These sounds are formed using the lips, tongue, teeth, mouth and nose.

Young children’s speech is often ‘unclear’, i.e. they use wrong sounds in words. It is important to remember:

  • All children develop differently
  • Not all children talk clearly from the beginning
  • Not all children can say all the sounds right away
  • Your child may develop clear speech over time with no help needed

How can I spot unclear speech?

  • You might understand them, but others may not.
  • They may often be asked to repeat what they have said.
  • They may not be able to get their message across.
  • They may become more and more frustrated.

Click on the link below to find out what to expect and when:


Click here to find out information on Coventry Speech Screen which can help parents and staff to work out which sounds a child is having difficulties with before you decide whether to make a referral. Click the below links to download the assessment. 

Coventry Speech Screen Assessment Form

Coventry Speech Screen Pictures



How will speech therapy help my child?

You, your child and the speech therapist will work on the sounds that your child is having difficulty with.

See steps to successful speech to learn more about the process

What can I do to help my child talk more clearly?

The most important job you have as a parent is to make your child feel confident and happy about talking.

  • When your child is talking
  • Show them you are listening by looking at them
  • Give them time to talk
  • Remember that what your child says is as important as how they say it
  • At times, when your child has said a word unclearly, repeat the word back to them positively, modelling the correct sounds. For example, if your child sees a car and says "tar!", respond with "yes you're right, it's a car!"


When you don’t understand

  • Do not pretend to have understood – be honest
  • Ask them to show you if they can
  • Ask them closed questions to get more information, e.g. “is it something you want?”; “Is it food?”; “A friend at school or at swimming?”

Children may need extra exposure to the sounds that they are having difficulty with this is called Auditory Bombardment. They may need to practise tuning in to sounds in their environment. Therapists may also use Input Modelling to teach children particular speech sounds. This technique works by allowing your child to experience particular speech sounds repeatedly through play.

Children may need to learn about language concepts which relate to speech sounds:

                   Long and Short Activities     



                    Front and Back Activities


Loud and Quiet Activities


            Beginning and End Activities 



                    2 sounds Vs 1 sound




Children need to work on listening to, and hearing the difference between, sounds before practising how to say them. This is called Auditory Discrimination. An activity called silent sorting helps us to know when a child is correctly hearing and understanding the sounds they have heard. You can keep a record of how well your child is doing using this Silent Sorting record


How to work on…

Input Modelling Approach

Minimal Pairs 


Help with Babbling

Single Sounds

With A Vowel

With A Vowel and Consonant

Short Words

Longer Words

Multi Syllabic Words

Phrase Level



Oro Motor Skills

Top tips for working on speech sounds.

Other information:


Reward charts

Palatal / lateral 's' sound 



It is recommended that children do not use a dummy after the age of 12 months. It can prevent them from speaking clearly and may mean they need speech therapy to develop sounds they would have developed naturally if they had not been using a dummy. For more information, see our leaflet on dummies.



Praise your child for things they do well e.g. “well done for putting your toys away; that was really helpful”. This will help them feel good at other things even though they may find talking difficult.

Remember...... Children are not lazy if they find it difficult to talk clearly

Also see
Model Language

Glue Ear


When and how to refer:

Click here to find out how to refer a child.