E-I-E-I-O and Other Vowel Sounds

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

By Eileen Adamo, M.S., CCC-SLP

When a child’s speech is difficult to understand, adults often assess what consonant sounds the child is or is not producing. However, when it comes to “speech intelligibility” (the ability to be understood), vowels have a major role in understanding the message. It is much easier to tell what a child wants if they are able to say “buh” for bubbles and “boo” for peekaboo with the correct vowels, even if some other consonants are not yet in place.

Here are a few tips to remember when working on vowel sounds at home:

  • Use a Mirror – Using a mirror to practice sounds can help your child pay attention to your mouth and make it easier for them to imitate what you are doing.
  • Be Specific – Rather than “say your OO sound,” use specific vocabulary about what your mouth is doing, to help your child understand what their mouth needs to do.
    • For example, saying “keep your lips back” for the “EE” sound, or “make circle lips” for the “OH” sound, helps guide their mouth into the correct position. Ask your clinician for tips.
  • Break it Down – If you are noticing that your child is having trouble accurately producing vowels in words or sentences, start at an easier level and increase the challenge once they are more successful.
    • This may mean starting with just the vowel by itself. Use a variety of vowels, including:
      • AY (like “play”), EE (like “tree”), Eye (like “pie”), OH (like “bow”), OO (like Boo”), OW (like “cow”), AH (like “mad”), AW (like “saw”), IH (like “kick”), UH (like “hug”)
    • Then try adding in a few Consonant + Vowel sound combinations:
      • Consonant-Vowel (ex: Bye), Vowel Consonant (ex: Up), Consonant-Vowel- Consonant-Vowel (ex: BooBoo), Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (ex: Hat)
    • Then work your way back to single words and short phrases.
  • Keep if Fun! – Making the activity fun and play-based will maximize your child’s engagement and willingness to practice (Remember, these sounds are hard to learn at first!)