A talking toy ... with an articulation disorder?

A reader sent me this question about her son's talking toy.

Hi, I have a 19 month old who has a new toy. When you press the button it says, "Hello, I am (and it sounds like) Edgerton". When you read the instruction manual, it says the toy's name is Edison, but it definitely sounds like Edgerton. Here is our debate - my husband believes that we should say it is Edison, and correct our son if he starts saying Edgerton. I, however, believe that he should try repeating what he hears as sounds, and that correcting him will cause confusion. When he is older and reads the instruction manual, I'm sure we can explain the differences, i.e., that technology sometime distorts sounds, and that also accents can too. Would like to know what we should encourage. Thanks.

Robert's response:

First off, a word of reassurance: if your child does not already have a speech or language disorder, he will not acquire one by playing with an electronic toy that features a low quality recording. Whichever approach you take will probably not have a significant impact on his communication development.

Here's an idea for a "middle way": model the correct name (Edison) for him, but do not attempt to "correct" his pronunciation if he says Edgerton. For example, offer the toy to him and say, "Look, it's Edison. Let's play with Edison. [push the button] Oh, it said, 'My name is Edison'". This is a technique called focused stimulation .

He may begin saying it wrong, but that's okay. If he points at the toy and says "Edgerton," just repeat "Edison, yes, it's Edison." This is called recasting .

With this approach, you are encouraging correct pronunciation, and possibly helping him hear the correct pronunciation when the toy 'speaks'. If his hearing is not impaired, he will eventually get the correct pronunciation. When he hits the teen years, all bets are off, but for now he is still at the age where kids generally assume Mommy and Daddy know what they are talking about.

Best wishes to you and your family!

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