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Generalising new speech sounds

Why is it important?

Although your child is able to say their tricky sounds in the clinic, they are finding it difficult to use certain sounds in everyday talking.

For example, your child may be able to use ‘s’ in a simple word in the clinic, such as ‘sea’ but in everyday talking they may say ‘tea’.

Changing the way we talk is really difficult and it may take a long time for your child to always use their new sounds. They will need help at home and nursery or school, to use their sounds in a range of contexts before they are able to use it in their everyday talking.

What your child is working on now

  • using their tricky sounds in everyday talking.

How can you help them to generalise new sounds?

You will need to help your child work through the following steps:

  1. Using the tricky sound in simple words.
    • Use pictures to practise using the tricky sound at the beginning – for example sea – middle – for example messy – and end – for example bus – of words
  1. Using the tricky sound in short phrases.
    • Use pictures in a simple game – for example pairs or lotto – where your child will have many opportunities to use their tricky sound in simple phrases.
    • Start with phrases that you give to your child, for example ‘I have a bus’, until they are consistently using their tricky sound in the phrase. Then ask them to come up with their own phrases about the picture, such as ‘The bus is red’.
  1. Using the tricky sound during ‘talking time’.
    • Set aside five to 10 minutes for ‘talking time’. Explain to your child that you will play and talk together and will listen out for their tricky sound.
    • Praise your child when they use their tricky sound, for example by keeping a tick chart of all the times you hear it, and prompt them to try again when they don’t use it, such as ‘you swam in the tea?’.
  1. Using the tricky sound in their everyday talking.
    • By the time your child is confidently using their tricky sound during ‘talking time’, they are likely to have started using it a lot during their everyday talking.
    • Agree with your child when and how they would like you to prompt them with their tricky sound during the day. For example, you may agree to listen out for it over dinner and only prompt them to try words again during that time.


  • Children benefit from practising little and often, so aim for 10 to 15 minutes every day.
  • Create lots of opportunities for your child to hear you using the tricky sound by modelling the sound within words during activities and throughout the day.
  • Only give your child prompts for the step they are on – do not prompt them to try words again at sentence level if they are still working on single words.
  • Wait until your child is consistent and confident at each step before moving onto the next one.
  • Don’t correct your child throughout the day – this will be stressful for you and your child.
  • Praise your child when they self-correct – trying words again without prompting. This is a great skill that will help them use their tricky sounds when you are not there.
  • Have fun!