Articulation is the way in which speech sounds are formed. A person has an articulation problem when he or she produces sounds incorrectly and listeners have trouble understanding what is being said. Many very young children omit, substitute or distort sounds, but words that sound cute when mispronounced by young children can later interfere with the communication of older children or adults. Articulation problems may result from physical causes, such as cerebral palsy, cleft palate, or hearing loss, or may be related to other problems in the mouth, such as dental problems. However, many articulation problems occur in the absence of any physical disability and may be due to the incorrect learning of speech sounds. Children learn the production of speech sounds by listening to the speech around them. This learning begins very early in life and sounds are typically learned in an orderly sequence. Some sounds, such as "p," "m," and "b," are learned as early as 3 years of age. Other sounds, like "s,'' "r,'' and "l" often are not completely mastered until the early school years. Children should make all the sounds of English by 8 years of age. Many children learn these sounds much earlier. A child's overall speech will usually become more understandable as he or she matures, but some children will need direct intervention to eliminate all articulation errors.
       You can help a child pronounce words correctly by setting a good example. Don't interrupt or constantly correct the child. Don't let anyone tease or mock. Instead, present a good model. Use the misarticulated word correctly with emphasis. If the child says. "That's a big wabbit," you say "Yes, that is a big rabbit. A big white rabbit. Would you like to have a rabbit?"
        Is it important to correct an articulation problem? When you consider the possible impact an articulation problem may have on one's social, emotional, educational, and vocational status, the answer becomes obvious. Our speech is an important part of us. The quality of our lives is affected by the adequacy of our speech.