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Phonological Awareness: Tips to Increase Awareness

There are several factors that impact a child’s intelligibility, for example how well a child’s speech is understood. Sometimes its articulatory deficits; sometimes phonological deficits; AND sometimes it can be both.

Let’s begin with understanding the difference.

Articulation disorder refers to the distorted production of speech sounds involving the uncoordinated movements of the lips, tongue, teeth, palate and respiratory system ( In other words, speech sounds are produced in error due to physiological reasons.

Phonological delay refers to speech sound errors produced when a child simplifies adult speech  in a predictable and consistent manner. It is common in young children but should subside by a certain age depending on the speech sound itself.

When the simplifications continue past age appropriateness, phonological disorder evolves.

Phonological Processes (the error patterns themselves) can be typical or atypical and include the following:

This post will focus on Phonological delays/disorders and HOW increasing phonological AWARENESS improves intelligibility and/or diminishes target errors.

One very important and effective strategy is learning how to identify sound placement on the word level. This strategy can be carried over from the therapy session into the home. This strategy is important to advance the child’s understanding and progress with speech sound and speech structure.

Phonological Awareness is an individual’s awareness of the sound structure of words (Wikipedia). One way to target and increase a child’s awareness of a target sound, is to apply listening strategies to identify location of the target sound in the word and here’s how you do it!



The child’s phonological process is palatal fronting, meaning that /sh/ is being produced as /s/.

1st: the child must learn to differentiate the two sounds.
2nd: the child must learn to identify where the sound is located in words.

The target sound can be in the beginning (initial word position IWP), middle (medial word position MWP), or end (final word position FWP) of a word.

Ship: /sh/ is in the beginning of the word. IWP

Brushing: /sh/ is in the middle of the word. MWP

Bush: /sh/ is in the end of the word. FWP

Strategy steps:

Use a visual like this:



The blue dot represents IWP
The red dot represents MWP
The yellow dot represents FWP

• Place the visual in front of the child and explain the sound position each dot represents.
• Prepare a target word list that includes words that contain the target sound (in this example) it would be /sh/.
• Have the child close their eyes and listen for the word being read out loud.
• Read the word out loud. PAUSE. Then ask the child “WHERE DO YOU HEAR /sh/?”


Adult: Where do you hear /sh/? Beginning, middle or end of the word?
Adult: will instruct the child to then open their eyes and refer to the visual dot strip.

If child has difficulty locating the position of the sound in BRUSHING…
Adult will then sound out the word slowly WHILE pointing to each of the dots in order.

BRU… (point to BLUE dot)
SH… (point to RED dot)
ING…(point to YELLOW dot)

• Adult will then explain by pointing and using the visual while verbally modeling the sound in the target word WHY /sh/ is in the MWP of the word BRUSHING.

• Repeat the process with any sounds the child produces in error and be sure to switch the position of the sound in words during practice!

– Layal Atieh, M.S. CCC-SLP