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Toddler Talkies!

Speech Sound Mapping Therapy with Phonemies (foe-nee-meez)

- Phonetic Symbols for Children

Developing Phonemic Awareness: the ability to isolate, segment, and blend the smallest sound units, and enhancing Language Skills.

Our Work with Babies and Toddlers

There is a wealth of evidence regarding phonemic awareness and risk, as well as the baby brain’s plasticity.

Infants show remarkable sensitivity to the sounds of language from a very early age, and this attunement plays a crucial role in the development of their linguistic abilities. The evidence detailing how infants are in tune with the sounds of language covers various aspects, including their preference for speech sounds over non-speech sounds, their ability to discriminate between phonemes, and their sensitivity to the rhythmic and intonational patterns of their native language. Here are some key findings from research in this area:


Here are some key findings from research in this area:

Preference for Speech Sounds: New-borns demonstrate a preference for speech sounds over non-speech sounds. This preference suggests that humans have an innate readiness to process language. For instance, studies have shown that infants prefer listening to their mother's voice and can even distinguish between the sound of their native language and a foreign language. 

Discrimination of Phonemes: Infants can discriminate between different phonetic elements from a very early age. Research indicates that babies as young as 1 to 4 months old can hear the difference between phonemes that adults in different linguistic communities might find challenging to distinguish. This ability is universal across languages, indicating a predisposition for language discrimination. 

Sensitivity to Prosody: Infants are sensitive to the rhythmic and intonational patterns (prosody) of speech. This sensitivity helps them to segment speech into meaningful units, such as words and phrases, even before they understand the words themselves. For example, infants show a preference for the prosodic patterns of their native language over those of foreign languages. 

Statistical Learning: Babies are adept at statistical learning, the ability to detect patterns and regularities in the speech they hear. Through exposure to speech, infants learn about the likelihood of certain sounds occurring together, which plays a crucial role in their acquisition of language structure. 

Early Bilingualism: Research on bilingual infants demonstrates that even very young babies can differentiate between two languages, suggesting a highly attuned mechanism for language discrimination. Bilingual infants are also able to keep the phonetic details of each language separate, which supports their development in both languages simultaneously. 

The evidence collectively underscores the importance of early exposure to language and the innate capacities infants possess for processing linguistic sounds. These foundational abilities facilitate the acquisition of language, highlighting the critical period in early childhood for language development.

Given the substantial evidence highlighting infants' remarkable sensitivity to language sounds and their inherent capability to process linguistic cues, focusing on phonemic awareness as an early intervention becomes not only beneficial but essential. Engaging with Phonemies—phonetic symbols designed for children—allows us to tap into the innate predispositions of infants for language discrimination and phonetic differentiation.


By nurturing phonemic awareness at a young age, we are leveraging the critical period of language development, where the brain's plasticity is at its peak. This strategic intervention supports the foundational linguistic skills, enabling children to isolate, segment, and blend the smallest units of sound. Consequently, this early attention to phonemic awareness lays a solid groundwork for advanced language skills, reading proficiency, and overall academic success. Recognising the sensitivity of the infant brain to language sounds, our work aims to enhance early linguistic abilities, making the most of this critical developmental window to foster long-term learning and cognitive benefits.

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