Speech errors kids make: Cluster reduction

Speech errors kids make: Cluster reduction

When a Speech and Language Therapist talks about 'speech', they mean the sounds that words are made up of (not the words themselves). A child with speech difficulties may say "tat" instead of "cat". A child with language difficulties might not even have a word for cat. Children can have both speech AND language difficulties. This series is about speech errors.

PHONOLOGICAL PROCESSES
Kids don't just start talking perfectly. Speech takes a while to develop and it's normal for some sounds to be tricky and some familiar learning patterns to be present. Sometimes when a child says a word not quite right, it's not because they can't say the individual sound, it's because they are using a pattern of sound errors to make things easier to say. These are called PHONOLOGICAL PROCESSES. For example, August says "aster" instead of "disaster". It's not because he can't say /d/, it's because he's dropping the weakest syllable (see my recent post on weak syllable deletion). Weak syllable deletion is a phonological process, just like cluster reduction.

WHAT IS CLUSTER REDUCTION?
A 'cluster' is a group of 2 or more consonant sounds. So 'pin' has no closures but 'spin' has an 'sp' cluster at the start and 'spring' has 'spr' which is a 3 consonant cluster. When kids are learning to talk it's really hard for them to move their mouthes to say two or three consonants next to each other, so they REDUCE the cluster down to one sound.

WHEN WILL MY CHILD GROW OUT OF IT?
If your little one started talking around age 1, most of this phonological process will likely disappear before age 4. Words with /s/ make take until age 5 to master.

WHAT IF MY OLDER CHILD STILL DOES THIS?
It's important you don't correct your child or make them feel self conscious. Just say their word back to them and accentuate the cluster.

Don't be afraid to reach out to your child's teachers to talk about your concerns too.

Did you notice your child using cluster reduction?

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