Considerations for choosing speech targets with children who are deaf and hard of hearing

There are a variety of questions that a speech-language pathologist asks when determining articulation goals for students, such as: What sounds is the child missing? Of these sounds, which are developmentally appropriate? Which sounds are most impacting his intelligibility, and is he stimulable for any of these sounds?

When a speech-language pathologist begins working with a student with hearing loss, however, new and different factors must be considered. Along with still thinking about the considerations mentioned above, speech-language pathologists should also keep the following in mind:

1. Audition: Often the speech errors of a student who is deaf or hard of hearing are a result of perception, not production, meaning he is omitting or inaccurately producing sounds because he is not hearing them at all or is not hearing them clearly. Check the student’s audiogram to ensure that the sounds being targeted are audible to the student when he is wearing his device(s). Also, consider consulting with the student’s audiologist to ensure his device(s) are optimally programmed.

2. Vocabulary level: Make sure that the words containing the student’s target sound(s) are familiar and meaningful to the student. For example, for a student at the beginning stages of using language, words such as “down” and “done” would be better choices than “dice” and “dig” when working on /d/. Choose words that are meaningful, useful and able to be reinforced throughout the student’s day.

3. Language level: It is also important to be familiar with the child’s overall language level. Is he communicating using primarily single words? Two to three-word phrases? Simple sentences? Knowing how the student is using language will determine the level at which he will be expected to produce the target sound when writing IEP goals (e.g., “John will produce /d/ in all positions of words with 80% accuracy.” vs. “Mary will produce /d/ in all positions of words within simple sentences with 80% accuracy.”).

By keeping these factors in mind, speech-language pathologists will be effective in determining articulation goals that are meaningful and attainable for their students.


Jessica KleinJessica Klein began working as a speech-language pathologist at CID in 2004, assessing and treating children from birth to age 12. Klein co-wrote the “Targeting Speech Skills for Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing” workshop, presenting annually at CID as well as at Southeast Missouri State University and the Missouri Speech and Hearing Association conference. In 2011, she accepted a job as a speech-language pathologist at a St. Louis charter school. While in the public school setting, Klein assessed and provided services to students with varying speech and language needs. She was a member of the school’s CARE team, collaborating with teachers and specialists to develop interventions for students struggling in the classroom. In 2015, she returned to CID ready to share her public school experiences with colleagues to help better prepare CID students for mainstream settings. Since her return, she has written a webinar about developing literacy skills in children who are deaf and hard of hearing as well as spoken about literacy skills and case managing students who are deaf and hard of hearing at Fontbonne University. She became associate coordinator of the CID Emerson Center for Professional Development in 2017.

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