Articulation delays are common in young children and several speech sounds can be particularly difficult for children to master. One sound that challenges many children is the /l/ sound. /L/ is a fairly easy sound to teach because it is produced near the front of the mouth, making it easy to “see.” Children should be able to produce /l/ in conversation by age 5.
The most common error is substituting a /w/ for /l/. Some children may use /y/ for /l/ or omit the /l/ altogether.
The /l/ sound is produced by placing the tongue tip behind the upper front teeth, against the gum ridge. The sides of the tongue are lowered in order to allow the voice to pass around the sides of the tongue.
- Model the correct placement of the tongue, using a mirror. Touch the gum ridge with a spoon or popsicle stick to demonstrate to the child where to make tongue contact.
- Practice raising and lowering the tongue tip to strengthen the tongue and develop awareness.
- Have the child open his mouth widely, sustain an “ah” sound while raising his tongue tip to the /l/ position.
- Practice /l/ vowel babbling…. “Lalala, loolooloo, leeleelee.” You may find that the /l/ is easier to produce when combined with specific vowels. Practice the easier syllables first.
- Compare the tongue tip sounds. Have the child practice: “tee, dee, nee, lee,” etc.
- If the child substitutes /w/ for /l/, gently spread the child’s lips to discourage him from rounding them when producing /l/.
Once the child can produce an L sound consistently in isolation or in a short syllable, have him practice it at the beginning of words, such as light, lamp, let, and lip. Then start to practice /l/ in the middle and ends of words and finally in sentences.
With consistent practice, you should soon see improvement in your child’s speech!