Speech Therapy: The phonological process of fronting

Learning language is a tough process for children and often involves small steps and substitutions as your child masters new sounds. For example, your child might have started out saying “wawa” but has since advanced to saying “water”. But what if your child has developed a pattern of speaking which involved the same substitutions? What if he always replaces the /g/ sound with the /d/ sound so that “game” becomes “dame”?

What Is Fronting in Speech?

This particular process is called fronting. Fronting is the term used when sounds that should be made at the back of the mouth, such as /g/ are made at the front, /d/. In practical terms, this means that a child might say ‘tea’ instead of ‘key’ or say ‘tar’ instead of ‘car.’

Types of Fronting

There are two types of fronting: velar fronting and palatal fronting. Velar fronting involves substituting the /k/ and /g/ sounds (which are normally articulated when the tongue makes contact with the velum, or soft palate at the back of the throat) with sounds that are made with the front of the tongue, namely the /t/ and /d/ sounds. An example would be saying “goose” as “doose.” Palatal fronting is very similar to velar fronting in terms of the process involved, but with palatal fronting, the sounds /sh, zh, ch, j/ are the sounds being substituted. An example of this would be pronouncing shoe as sue or cheer as seer.

It’s important to note that fronting is a very common process in children between the ages of 2-3 and it often corrects itself as the child grows older. However, if your child is experiencing fronting beyond the age of 4, it might be a good idea to contact a speech language pathologist for an evaluation.

What Can I Do To Help My Child?

Fronting is a normal process for children to go through as they are learning language. It falls into a category of phonological processes. Essentially, the phonology of language tells us how sounds fit together in words. Children who have phonology disorders, like fronting, have not learned the rules for how sounds fit together to make words or are using certain processes to simplify words.

Unlike other speech-language disorders, which can involve physical issues that complicate the process of making words, correcting phonological processes is simply a matter of re-teaching your child to make certain sounds in certain contexts.

While it is always strongly advisable that you employ the help of a speech-language pathologist for treatment, there are things you can do with your child to help correct fronting problems. For example, let’s assume your child is substituting /t/ for /k/ – one type of fronting. You might think about starting with helping your child isolate the /k/ sound. One technique would be to have your child hold the tip of his tongue down with (a clean) finger and then try to make the /k/ sound. When your child can successfully make this sound, try moving on to syllables like /k/. If this is successful, you can move on to short words, maybe printing out a set of cards with /k/ words on them and playing a game like Memory. Finally, you can move on to short phrases or rhymes that include the /k/ sound. The important thing is repetition and, of course, patience.