Speech Development

Children start practicing their speech sounds by babbling when they are very young and this process will continue for the next few years of their lives. It is quite normal for children’s speech intelligibility to be limited when they are very young but as they grow older their intelligibility increases even if sometimes their sounds are not all correct. In fact, it is expected that children make some speech errors at different stages of their development. These errors are called ‘age appropriate’ and should resolve as they get to practice more of their language and speech sounds.

The following table gives a general idea of what sounds and errors to expect at different ages. If your child’s speech is not following the pattern you see in this table, please contact your doctor and/ or a Speech and Language Therapist.

Age Sounds to expect Acceptable error patterns
3:0-3:5 m, n, h, b, p, w

Gliding: '[w]ing' for '[r]ing'

Deaffrication: '[d]oe' for '[j]oe'

Cluster reduction: '[n]ake' for '[sn]ake'

Fronting:'do[d]' for 'do[g]'

Weak Syllable delection:'nana' for '[ba]nana'

Stopping: '[p]ish' for '[f]ish'

3:6-3:11 tw, kw Same as the above
4:0-4:5* d, t, k, g, f, sh, s, j, pl, bl, kl, sp, gl, pr, br, tr, dr, kr

Gliding: ''[w]ing' for '[r]ing'

Cluster reduction: '[n]ake' for '[sn]ake'

Fronting:'do[d]' for 'do[g]'

Stopping: '[p]ish' for '[f]ish'

4:6-4:11* r, v, z, l, str Gliding: '[w]ing' for '[r]ing'
5:0-5:5* th, dh, l, skw, str, spl Gliding: '[w]ing' for '[r]ing'
5:6-onwards* th, dh, l, skw, str, spl There should be no more error patterns at this point
Speech intelligibility

- By 18 months: 25% intelligible

- By 24 months: 50% to 75% intelligible

- By 36 months: 75% to 100% intelligible

You can help your children by developing their awareness of sounds through listening games. Here are some ideas for games and strategies you can use at home:

  1. Reduce distractions where possible: Keep environmental noises down
  2. Draw the child’s attention to noises in the environment and comment on what they are, e.g. water running, aeroplane overhead, fire engine.
  3. Encourage the recognition and use of animal noises.
  4. Encourage the recognition of rhyme and rhythm by saying nursery rhymes. Give the child the opportunity to finish the lines of a familiar rhyme. Action rhymes are particularly good where you have to do something to the words, e.g. incey wincey spider and twinkle twinkle.
  5. Further encourage rhythmic skills by clapping out words and phrases according to the syllables, e.g. I want bubbles.
  6. Give certain toys a particular sound, e.g. a ball says ‘b-b-b’ as you bounce it and a train goes ‘ch-ch-ch.
  7. Encourage the child to look at you so you know they are listening and they can see the shape of your mouth when you say the sound.
  8. If the child pronounces a word wrong, praise what they have said and then remodel it, e.g. “Yes, you are right it is a dog.”
  9. Emphasis the target sound of the word you are modeling, e.g. ssssand.
  10. Take every opportunity during the day to use words with the target sound, e.g. “here are your socks; teddy is sitting on the seat.”

Speech consists of a series of speech organ movements in the mouth to produce speech sounds in the right place with the right manner.
E.g. In producing ‘u’ as in ‘food’, the lips are more rounded and tensed with the tongue retracted in higher position than in ‘foot’.

When a child has similar production pattern with typically developing children but of lower age group, he is considered to be speech delayed. A child with unclear pronunciation and error patterns that are different from that of typically developing children is considered to have articulation or phonological disorders.

Articulation disorders describe difficulties with the physical production of speech sounds.

Phonological disorders describe difficulties with producing sound patterns within the language(s) that a child uses.

Children with developmental dyspraxia have intact and functioning muscles. They have the ability to produce the correct speech sounds. However, the muscles cannot produce these sounds at will. They may struggle to produce certain sounds and their speech becomes unintelligible as the result.

If you have concerns with your child’s speech development, we recommend you seek the advice of a speech and language therapist so an in depth assessment can be completed.