When I finally pulled my head out of the sand and acknowledged that Ava's speech was delayed I needed to decide how to best help her. At the age of two, Childhood Apraxia of Speech is not officially diagnosed, but Ava had many of the red flags for a motor-speech planning disorder. I did not have a lot of professional experience with very young children whose speech were as delayed as Ava's so I began to research. I decided to spend approximately $200 to invest in the Kaufman Kit - Level 1 (read my Kaufman Kit review). It is one of the most commonly used therapy resources for working with children with severe speech delays with a motor-speech component (CAS).
I had high hopes for the kit and waited anxiously for it to arrive. When it came, I was frustrated by the manual's brevity. I felt like I wanted more explanation, theory, advice and instruction for the cost of the kit, but I worked through that. What most frustrated me was how little of the kit I was able to use with Ava. Her speech level was so low that I was able to use only two sections of the kit (VC and CV). On top of that, she wasn't able to make several of the vowel and consonant sounds yet so I was left with about 10 cards to work with from my $200 dollar investment. (Ironically, six months later when I pulled the kit back out to try it again I realized that most of the kit was then too easy for her.)
I was a speech-pathologist. My only client was my daughter. Trust me. I knew exactly which sounds were in her inventory and which were not. I knew what she needed to work on next, and the Kaufman kit was not giving that to me. I needed more CV and VC words (and eventually CVC) that included the sounds she could make with a wide variety of vowels. First I tried commercial sets. I ordered several articulation card sets with simple consonants (/p/, /m/, /t/). Again, I ended up with a lot of words I couldn't use. Children who need to drill /p/, /b/, and /m/ aren't going to be able to start with multi-syllable words. They don't need consonant blends in those words. They don't need a lot of /l/, /sh/, /ch/, /s/, and /th/ thrown into the words. Again, I was forced to eliminate most of the words in the card sets leaving me with only 3-5 words to work with. I didn't want to plan an entire therapy session with 3-5 words day after day. Not only was it boring, but it didn't allow for the phonemic variety necessary. There are 14 vowels. 3-5 words weren't combining my targeted consonant with enough vowels.
So I started to make my own sets. I spent hours at it. But it was immediately obvious to me that they were working. I was able to drill with real words. I was able to drill with picture cards she found engaging. I was able to drill with words that combined my targeted consonant with different vowels so that her motor-planning system could learn the different coarticulation patterns involved when you change the vowel.
On top of that, aside from time, they were free. (Hmm. Technically they aren't free for me. I pay to be able to use the images, but that was worth it to me.) If they get colored on, or crumpled, or spilled on, I can simply print another set. If I want to share them with her therapist, grandparents, or another parent, I can simply print additional sets. If I want to cut some in half to make puzzles, if I want to play go fish with them, if I want to turn them into fish for a fishing game, I just print more. I like having my own printable sets. I like that they are small and easy for my hands and the hands of children to hold.
I've stopped spending money on articulation materials that aren't meeting our needs. When I have a new target with Ava I invest several hours and make a new card set that addresses our needs perfectly. I see the sets as a hybrid of the traditional articulation approach (targeting specific consonant phonemes) and a motor-speech planning approach (combining targeted consonants with a wide variety of vowel contexts, simple syllable shapes, mastering words with less complex motor planning before moving on to words with more complex motor planning, etc.). Once I spent the hours necessary to make each set, I wanted to share them. I sincerely hope that other parents and other SLPs would also find them to be useful. I hope they you help other children learn to talk.