Speech and Sound Development

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Speech and Sound Development

While children vary greatly in their development of speech sounds, there is a fairly consistent order in which sounds are acquired and an expectation in how clearly they can be understood at different ages.  

By 3 months
Vowel sounds are heard e.g., during cooing

By 6 months
Babies begin babbling using early consonant sounds (e.g. “mama”, “bababa”).  

By 12 months
Children are using their consonant sounds in words  

By 18 months
Children are understood 25% of the time

By age 2
Children are understood 65% of the time
See chart below

By age 3
Your child should be understood 90% of the time
See chart below

By Age 4
your child should be understood almost always by both familiar and unfamiliar listeners.
See chart below
later developing sounds such as “r” and “th” are still  being acquired naturally by children during their preschool years and beyond.  KidsAbility does not provide speech/language intervention services for these sounds.

Early Sounds

Middle Sounds

Later Sounds

*p, b, m
*t, d, n
*h, w

*k, g
*f, v, s, z
*sh, y

*ch, j
*l, r

By age 2

By age 3 to 4

By age 4+

Difficulties in Speech Development
Children with difficulties in speech development may have difficulties in articulation, phonology or motor speech development.  
Articulation is the production of speech sounds. Specifically, it is how a child moves his or her articulators (i.e. lips, tongue, jaw, etc) to make a speech sound. If articulation is impaired, speech clarity is typically reduced.
Phonology is the study of speech sounds and sound patterns. More specifically, phonology refers to the rules children learn about how sounds are combined to make words.

Motor Speech.
Children with oral motor difficulties have the capacity to say speech sounds but have a problem with motor planning. They have difficulty making the movements needed for speech, voluntarily.

You may be concerned when your child:
  • is difficult for family members, peers, and unfamiliar listeners to understand.
  • Has a limited number of consonant sounds.
  • Is struggling to form sounds and imitate the sounds of others.
If after 3 ½  years of age your child is:
  • Fronting - uses “t” and “d” for “k” and “g” (e.g., “I see a tat” for “I see a cat”)
  • Stopping early fricatives (e.g., “I like toup” for “I like soup” or “I want some bood” for “I want some food”)
  • Deleting final or initial sounds (e.g. “Toa_” for “Toad” or “_ant” for “Want”)
  • Reduplicates syllables (e.g. Baby à Baba; Cookie à Kuhkuh)
  • Is producing lateral (sideways) sounds – i.e., "slushy” sounds
  • Has a nasal sound quality; too much or too little airflow through nose

What you can do to help:
If you think your child is not meeting the developmental milestones as expected don’t ‘wait and see’. Contact Us to make a referral for a speech and language

Click here for General Suggestions to Help Your Child Develop Speech Sound Production Skills.

Caroline Bowen:
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