Child Speech Therapy: Speech Sound Development

“Dat wabbit eat tarrot”. This phrase may be easily translated into “that rabbit eats a carrot” by parents who are familiar with toddler speech. Although pronunciation errors may be part of normal speech development, when is it considered an articulation problem? Learn more about the acquisition sequence of speech sounds, signs of an articulation problem, and tips to encourage speech at home. 

 Aubrey Kilian

Aubrey Kilian

Normal Acquisition of Speech Sounds

The acquisition of speech sounds does not necessarily follow a strict hierarchy. For instance, not all children learn the /p/ sound before the /b/ sound. Although the order may differ, speech sounds are developed and mastered in a developmental sequence. Shriberg (1993) classifies the development of speech sounds into three groups of eight: early, middle, and late.

  • Early 8- m, b, y, n, w, d, p, h
  • Middle 8- t, k, g, ng, f, v, ch, j
  • Late 8: sh, s, z, l, r, th (voiced ‘bathe’ and voiceless ‘bath’)

Speech sounds are typically mastered between the ages 2-8 years old. The following chart outlines the speech sounds mastered by the corresponding age.

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*For more information on emergence and mastery ages of speech sounds click here.

Speech Therapy

As children develop language, they will experience different speech errors but most children will learn to correct errors. For some children, the problem may persist making it hard for people to understand them.  If a child has difficulty being understood they may become frustrated. To determine if your child has an articulation (pronunciation and talking) problem, first look at the previous chart to see if your child is using most or all of the sounds for his/her age. Other indications of an articulation disorder include:

  • Child’s speech is difficult to understand by familiar and unfamiliar listeners. By age 4, a child should have clear speech understood by all listeners.
  • Child uses primarily vowel sounds with limited consonants after the age 2.
  • Difficulty moving jaw and tongue.
  • Child becomes frustrated when others cannot understand them.

If you are concerned about your child’s speech, contact Lumiere Children’s Therapyfor a speech evaluation.

Improving articulation at home

  • Model correct pronunciation of words by talking to your child throughout the day.
  • Reduce background noise (television, radio, music) during play.
  • Make silly faces in front of the mirror (smiling, kissy, tongue out). Incorporate speech sounds during the silly faces so your child has a visual model through the mirror.
  • Read books that incorporate the targeted speech sound. For example, if working on the/g/ sound Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker is a great book.
  • Listen and respond to your child even if it is hard to understand their speech.
  • Repeat your child’s sentence using correct pronunciation. Avoid family and friends imitating incorrect pronunciations even if it sounds ‘cute’.
  • Avoid over-correcting your child’s speech. A rule of thumb is to correct 1 in 5 mispronunciations.
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Resources:

“Articulation (Pronunciation and Talking).” Kid Sense Child Development, childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/talking/articulation-pronunciation-and-talking/.

“Policy Development.” International Regulation of Underwater Sound, pp. 121–168., doi:10.1007/1-4020-8078-6_4. 

“Speech Sound Disorders.” NW Speech Therapy, www.nwspeechtherapy.com/functional-articulation-disorders.html.

Yeh, Katie. “Articulation Development: What’s Normal? (& What Isn’t).” Playing With Words 365, 10 Apr. 2017, www.playingwithwords365.com/speech-articulation-development-whats-normal-what-isnt/.