My son does not pronounce well: what to do?

The acquisition of speech sounds progresses as the child grows. The sounds are acquired according to the degree of difficulty, so that the younger the child, the more unintelligible what he “says” is.

As they get older they have more control over their language and where they position it, they know how to differentiate phonemes and understand, for example, that “s” and “z” sound different.

However, from the age of 5, if the child still does not speak well at all, there is a problem. Parents start to worry and wonder “why is my child not pronouncing well?” and what to do. Well, we’ll see below.

    Why is my son not pronouncing well?

    A very characteristic feature of young children is having one cloth per tongue. They have difficulty imitating words, do not pronounce phonemes well, turn them or omit them.

    Problems with articulation of phonemes and correct speech are perfectly normal in the first years of life. At less than 5 years old they do not have an effective control of their language and the rest of the phonoarticulatory apparatus, in addition they still have to learn to distinguish the phonemes which constitute their mother tongue.

    Each child grows at their own pace, and while some can speak clearly enough at only 3 years old, others still cost them a little at that same age. However, from the age of 4 or 5 there is enough reason to worry if our son or daughter does not speak well at all. It might not be a big deal, of course, but it never hurts to go to a speech therapist to assess what exactly is going on because our seedling still doesn’t articulate phonemes well.


    The name by which it is known a problems with correct pronunciation of native language phonemes this is called dyslalia. There are three types of dyslalia, depending on when it occurs and what might be causing it.

    1. Progressive dyslalia

    As we mentioned, until the age of 4, it is normal for children not to be able to pronounce all the phonemes. This is called progressive dyslalia, which is the difficulty in pronouncing sounds associated with the fact that the phonoarticulatory organs have not developed properly.

    Over time, the child will have better control of the tongue, soft and hard palate, lips and other parts involved in the pronunciation of phonemes. By the age of 4, it is expected that the child will already be able to pronounce correctly, or be very close to pronouncing all sounds well.

    2. Functional dyslalia

    Functional dyslalia is one in which the child does not use the articulatory organs correctly when trying to pronounce a phoneme. This could be due to a problem in the mouth or simply not having learned to pronounce the phonemes correctly.

    For example, it does not properly place the tongue in the position necessary to emit sound or even lateralize it. You can also omit, replace, distort or insert a phoneme.

    3. Audiogenic dyslalia

    In audiogenic dyslalia, the child does not articulate correctly, not because of problems in the mouth or not knowing how to do it, but because he does not seem to perceive the nuances between two or more phonemes. This may be due to deafness or not perceiving any process of auditory stimuli.

      Types of errors

      When we talk about dyslalia, it is possible to find different types of errors depending on the phonemes involved and how they are omitted, replaced or rotated. As we said, the main problem with dyslalia is that the child is not able to speak his native language properly, however, it becomes necessary to take note. When we speak of mother tongue we are not referring to the most prevalent standard or variety of the language, but to what is taught at home, With their specific vocabulary.

      There are dialects in the same language and none of them should be seen how to speak the language badly. Perhaps there is a dialect more widespread than the others and this speech served as a reference or model of pronunciation. However, this does not mean that speakers of other dialects speak badly, they just speak differently.

      It may be that in these other discourses, linguistic phenomena occur radically differently from the way most speak but that they should not be interpreted as speech errors.

      For example, in some Andalusian dialects, there is a phenomenon called ceceo which consists of replacing “s” by “z”. The ceceo is also a proper error in the dyslalia, nevertheless, this one is very different from the natural ceceo of the Andalusian speech. An Andalusian child who speaks blindly at home is not a child with dyslalia but is a native speaker of Andalusian Spanish.

      Clarified it all, let’s see the main types of errors characteristic of children with dyslalia when using Spanish.

      • Ceceo: / s / for / z /: “hunt” instead of “house”.
      • Seseo: / z / by / s /: “shoe” instead of “shoe”.
      • Substitution of / f / for / p / or / z /: “Marfo” instead of “março”
      • Replacement of / k / by / t /: “chalk” instead of “maybe”
      • Rotacism: “gumble” to “break”.
      • Nasalization: / d / for / n /, “animates” for “hypotheses”.
      • Ringing voiceless consonants: for example, / g / instead of / k /, “gauze” for “house”.
      • Anticipation problems, say “titate” to “go out”.
      • Duplication, “alerreror” instead of “around”
      • Substitution or assimilation of one phoneme by another. For example, / t / for / s /.
      • Modification of the order of phonemes: “toothpick” instead of “toothpaste”
      • Modification of the syllabic order, p. for example, “telephone”.

      What is causing my child to not pronounce well?

      There are several reasons behind dyslalia.

      1. Evolutionary cause

      It would be associated with progressive dyslalia. simply the child does not pronounce the phonemes well because he has not yet fully developed his phonoarticulatory apparatus, But sooner or later it will be fully formed. His age is between 2 and 4 years, so it is expected that he mispronounces some phonemes. However, it will be necessary to go to a speech therapist if the pronunciation problems persist beyond 5 years.

      2. Auditory perception problems

      There are cases when the individual cannot pronounce correctly because he cannot hear it correctly, which would result in audiological dyslalia. There may be an ear injury, a problem with the auditory nerve, or a brain injury that prevents the child from hearing one or more phonemes properly., Treat them and differentiate them from others. It confuses the phonemes and makes them feel the same.

      3. Damaged sound articulator and poor engine control

      As the child grows, it is normal for him to acquire the motor skills to move his tongue and lips, making the phonemes he wants. More age, more control and better pronunciation. However, sometimes it still happens has not developed the necessary muscles or has injuries to the lips, tongue, hard and / or soft palate, teeth, jaws or nostrils which makes its pronunciation limited.

      4. Lack of understanding

      Sometimes the problem is neither in the mouth nor in the perception of sounds, but in the comprehension. Children omit sounds, replace them or distort them while being able to make them correctly. In some cases, speech may be unintelligible if many sounds are affected.

      Rather, the underlying issues are psychological in nature, such as a developmental disorder or personality traits such as shyness or disinterest. just like the people around him.

      Likewise, they are aware that they do not speak well, that they feel frustrated about it, that they can perform poorly in school and may be aggressively frustrated by adults telling them over and over how they should say things.

      What if a child over 5 years old still doesn’t pronounce well?

      We again underline the importance of addressing the professional in charge of this problem: the speech therapist. Thanks to his assessment, he will establish a diagnosis in which the cause of our child’s pronunciation difficulties is specified. If the child has problems because he does not understand how to say things it is probably the speech therapist himself who is responsible for teaching him to speak correctly.

      On the other hand, if the problem is due to possible deafness, mouth injuries or a suspected neurological injury will be referred to other professionals, not without neglecting the speech therapist. This professional will check the child’s progress after the relevant surgeries and assess whether their dyslalia has improved or worsened.

      However, it is very important that you also work from home. Parents and other family members should be role models in teaching their children to speak. Even if you are not a speech therapist, there are many ways to correct our child’s pronunciation problem.

      The first thing to be clear is that childish language of the child should not be encouraged, that is, imitating or using their own poorly pronounced words. For example, if you say “tetota” instead of ball, we don’t use the same word, but the good one, no matter how funny that sounds to us. The important thing is that you understand that this word has to be said the way we pronounce it and that, if you want to be understood, you have to learn to say it correctly.

      It is very important that, When correcting these pronunciation errors, do not be pushed or forced to speak correctly.. In other words, if he said “tetota” to us, let’s not say “I gave the ball, repeat with me: pe-ho-ta”. It is best to answer by saying the correct word, for example “I think I saw the pe-ho-ta over there in your room”. It is also very important to avoid using expressions such as “this is not called” or “it is wrong”, as this may deter and discourage you, which will prevent you from speaking.

      By the age of 4, children no longer need a bottle or pacifier. It has been a long time since I should have stopped using it, especially from 2 years old. The use of bottles and pacifiers beyond 2 years means that the organs of the phonoarticulatory system cannot develop properly, being very counterproductive in the acquisition of correct pronunciation.

      Chewing is a very important aspect. Chewing is done by oral gymnastics, training the muscles that we will use to make the phonemes. This is why it is essential that when you already have teeth, we stop giving you soft foods. We avoid everything from mash, porridge, juice and switch to a solid diet. Of course, it needs to be cut and soft enough that you won’t get bored, but strong enough to chew on.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Aguilar-Valera, JA (2017). DSM-V communication disorders. The need for differential diagnoses. Notebooks of neuropsychology (11) 1: 144-156.
      • Bauman-Wängler, Jacqueline Ann. (2004). Joint and phonological alterations: a clinical approach (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 978-0-205-40248-9. OCLC 493612551.

      Leave a Comment