5 Ways to Incorporate Literacy into Articulation Therapy

Did you know that even in the absence of specific language impairments, children with speech sound disorders (SSD) are at a greater risk of both spelling and reading challenges?1 The risk is particularly high for kids who have atypical errors and errors that persist beyond the age of beginning reading instruction.2

This suggests a need to bring explicit phonemic awareness instruction into traditional articulation therapy in the preschool and kindergarten years.

Bringing Phonemic Awareness to Articulation Therapy

You might consider:

  • Sound Discrimination—Have the child identify words with the target sound from a word list you read.
  • Word Blending—Have the child say the target sound while you provide the rest of the word, then have them blend the parts together and say the word in its entirety. This would sound like:
    Child: “f”
    Adult: “an”
    Child: “fan”
  • Target Sounds Rhyming—For a student working on final /k/, this might mean a word list of “rake, bake, fake, lake, take, wake.”
  • Sound Changing—Change the first sound of random objects in the room to the child’s target sound. Don’t worry about the creation of nonsense words. Not only do most children find the nonsense words hilarious, but these nonsense words can be a great starting place since the error pattern hasn’t become a habit. For a child working on initial /l/, this might sound like “lair” (chair), “lug” (rug), “lindow” (window), and “loor” (door).
  • Visual Phonemes—Focus on sound/symbol associations by providing a visual of the phoneme (letter, digraph, or possible spellings). Touch the phoneme each time it is produced.

Adaptations for Older Students

What about your older students, such as those in the fifth grade? For these students, morphological awareness is the best predictor of decoding abilities.3 Again, you may need to incorporate specific instruction in conjunction with articulation practice to gain competence. At this age, lessons might include root words, suffixes, and prefixes as well as determining the meaning and possible pronunciation change across related words.

Even once the error pattern has been “fixed,” many children with speech sound disorders will still need explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, particularly regarding their previous error pattern, because many speech sound disorders involve a faulty phonological system rather than a true motor issue.

Reframing articulation referrals and therapy in this way—as a preventative measure against reading and spelling disorders—and including literacy components in your therapy session will provide more efficient treatment for your students and, most likely, better long-term outcomes.

  1. Hayiou-Thomas, M. E., Carroll, J. M., Leavett, R., Hulme, C., & Snowling, M. J. (2017). When does speech sound disorder matter for literacy? The role of disordered speech errors, co-occurring language impairment and family risk of dyslexia. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 58(2): 197–205.
  2. Preston, J. & Edwards, M. L. (2010). Phonological awareness and types of sound errors in preschoolers with speech sound disorders. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53(1): 44–60.
  3. Nagy, W., Berninger, V. W., & Abbott, R. D. (2006). Contributions of morphology beyond phonology to literacy outcomes of upper elementary and middle-school students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1): 134-147.