What is Stopping in Speech?
When a child has a difficult time pronouncing some sounds, they might make substitutions. For example, a child might say “shtip” instead of “ship” or “dope” instead of “soap.” This particular type of behavior, when a child inserts a “stopping” consonant (b/p/t/d/g) is appropriately called “stopping” and generally develops when a child is between 3-5 years of age.
Consonant sounds that children most frequently have problems with include f, s, v, z, sh, j, ch, and th.
Should I Be Worried?
Stopping falls into a category of speech “errors” or processes that are called phonological processes. Unlike other types of speech-language disorders, phonological processes do not involve any type of motor dysfunction; rather, your child has just synthesized different rules for how sounds fit together in words or he’s using certain processes to simplify words.
Many phonological processes are common as children develop language and will generally clear up on their own. However, if your child is experiencing difficulty to the point that he is unintelligible or is still experiencing stopping beyond an appropriate age, it would be advisable to contact a licensed speech language pathologist (SLP) for an evaluation.
Going through an evaluation does not commit you to getting therapy for your child; it is merely a tool to help decide if your child requires speech therapy or not. Following an evaluation, the speech language pathologist might also decide that therapy is not necessary, but that some simple at-home exercises might help clear up the problem.
What If my Child Does Need Treatment?
Treatment of phonological processes, like stopping, often involves helping the child recognize correct sound patterns (rules) and using drills to help establish new, correct speech patterns. There are many different types of treatments for phonological processes and your speech language pathologist will be able to pick out those best suited to your child’s needs.
But, to give you an example of what you might expect, one popular therapy technique for remediating phonological processing disorders is called “cycling”. This approach utilizes auditory bombardment, or repeatedly saying words that use correct patterns, until the child masters the repeated speech process. After one is mastered, the child will then move on to the next. Once the child goes through all of the speech processes that need adjustment, the cycles are repeated. Again, this is just one of many techniques that could be used to treat stopping and a speech-language therapist will often utilize many different techniques in order to maximize efficiency.
As with most speech production disorders, therapy can, in the majority of cases, make a huge difference. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that early intervention increases the chances of success. It’s also key that you, as a parent, are actively involved in your child’s therapy process. Your SLP should be able to recommend games and exercises to play between visits that will greatly enhance the effectiveness of formal therapy sessions.