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Generalisation of speech sounds

What is generalisation of speech sounds?

When a child learns a new speech sound, they need to practise using it in everyday situations. Your child may be able to make their speech sound during a structured activity, when they are focused on their speech, but have difficulty remembering to use the sound when they are not focused on their speech. Learning to use a newly learned speech sound in everyday speech is called ‘generalisation’. This is the last stage in learning a new sound and can be the most difficult stage. In order to achieve generalisation, your child needs to practise the speech sound in all situations, including at home and school.

Ideas for speech sound generalisation activities

  • Allocate ‘Talking Time’
    • This is time together with your child, doing an activity of their choosing, for example, reading, playing a game, telling stories, talking about their day etc.
    • Agree with your child that they must try and use their new sound during this time and that you are allowed to remind them about it.
    • Reward your child for using their new sound, for example, by giving them a tick on a tally chart, giving a thumbs up.
  • Draw attention to words in everyday life containing the sound, for example, on the walk to school, in the park, at the shops. For example ‘oh look, there is a swing and a slide – both of these things start with the ‘s’ sound’.
  • Choose a ‘Word of the Day’ or some ‘Words of the Week’. Put these words around the house so your child has lots of opportunities to practice the words.
  • Play ‘I spy’ using words with their new sound.
  • Set your child challenges or ‘missions’ of the day. For example, a mission to use the speech sound correctly when speaking to a relative on the phone, or when asking for lunch at school. Get them to feedback to you how it went.
  • Make up stories containing the new sound.

Top Tips

 If your child makes a mistake and says a word using their ‘old’ sound:

  • Say it back to them in a light-hearted way, for example:

Child says: “It’s a slud


Adult says: “Yes, it’s a slug

  • Say it back to them but give them a choice, for example, “Is it a slug or a slud?”.
  • It is important to try not to ‘overdo’ reminding your child about their new sound – pointing out incorrect productions of a sound all the time may discourage your child from speaking. Therefore, choosing a specific time to listen to your child’s speech is often better.
  • Praise your child when you hear them using their new sound in everyday situations. For example, “Wow, I just heard you use the ‘c’ sound when you were playing with the cars – well done”.

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL194

Resource Type: Article

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