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Speech Sound Development

  • “I can understand my child’s speech, but others can’t.”

  • “What sounds should my child be able to say by age 3?”

  • “Is it okay if my child can’t say the ‘R’ sound yet?”

  • “Does my child need speech therapy?”

These are common questions that many parents have as they listen to the development of their child’s speech sounds. It is exciting to hear early coos and babbles, first words, and even formation of complete sentences, but many parents may wonder if their child is progressing at an appropriate rate. Parents often want to know when to go to a speech therapist, or what are “signs” to see a speech therapist. Fortunately, much research has been done in this area that can help provide guidelines for which speech sounds to listen for as your child grows.

A study by McLeod & Crowe (2018) provides evidence that although every child is different and may vary in their rate and timing of speech sound development, children are typically able to produce the majority of speech sounds by age 5. McLeod & Crowe (2018) provide a helpful list of speech sounds that are produced, on average, by each age range:

Age 2-3:

p, b, m, w, h, y, t, d, n, f, g, k (“k” or hard “c” sound as in “kite” and “cat”), ng (as in “swing”)

Age 4:

l, ch, j, s, z, sh, v

Age 5:

r, zh (as heard in the middle of “measure”), voiced th (as in “that” – voiced indicates that our vocal folds vibrate to produce voice for this sound)

Age 6:

voiceless th (as in “thumb” – voiceless indicates that our vocal folds do not vibrate for this sound and it is heard as a whisper)

While this speech sound developmental timeline provides helpful milestones to look for, it is important to remember that every child is different and may develop various communication skills at different times. If you have concerns regarding your child’s speech sound development, seek consultation from a speech therapist, also known as a speech-language pathologist (SLP). SLPs can assess your child’s speech sound production skills, utilizing research in addition to their own clinical expertise in order to provide the best, individualized recommendations for your child.

Outside of speech sound production, there are many other skills that SLPs evaluate and treat, including understanding and use of language, social communication skills, impact of hearing or auditory processing difficulties on communication, speech fluency or stuttering, voice and resonance of speech, literacy skills, cognition, and feeding/swallowing. For additional speech therapy and speech sound resources, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website at https://www.asha.org/public/, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us at APT!

Mary Hamilton, M.S., CCC-SLP

 

McLeod, S., & Crowe, K. (2018). Children’s consonant acquisition in 27 languages: A cross-linguistic review. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 27(4), 1546-1571. https://doi.org/10.1044/2018_AJSLP-17-0100