My son has a mild speech difficulty. It’s nothing very serious. He’s just harder to understand than other kids his age. When he was younger we took him to have his hearing and mouth checked to rule out any physical problems. He’s fine.
Most parents and educators agree phonics are a valuable way to teach kids how to read. I have also discovered by working with phonics orally, my son’s speech has improved. At first is wasn’t very noticeable. Then as the sounds he was learning increased in difficulty, his speech began to improve. Now in second grade he is learning about syllables, stressed and unstressed sounds and syllables, silent letters. He really has to carefully pronounce the words to get the answers correct.
The reading program we started with (Abeka) was very phonics intensive as is the program we use now (Christian Light Education). They are both good programs for learning to read (CLE is more gentle of the two). They both focus on phonics first then sight words. Phonics are the core of these programs rather than an extra thrown in.
Another important thing with kids that have speech difficulty, is parents paying attention to the speech patterns of their friends. My son had a friend who used souther drawl such as ya for you, dropping the in -ing ending words or changing -ing to -na (gonna instead of going to). When I noticed my son copying his speech, I spoke to the other boys mom and explained the problem. I corrected both boys and made a game of it after awhile so the other boy didn’t feel picked on. Eventually, both boys speech was much better. I wasn’t trying to punish the other boy or get rid of his accent, just make him easier to understand and keep my son’s speech improving.
We still need to tell my son to slow down and speak carefully at times, especially when he is tired or excited. Phonics and good modeling were the keys to helping him.