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This chart shows sounds development in the speech of children as they mature.
Sounds Age of Mastery in Most Children
vowels sounds Before age 3
m, n, b, p, d, t, h, w Before age 3
f, k 3- 3 1/2 years
g 3 1/2- 4 years
v, y 4-5 years
sh, l 5-6 years
th, ch, j 6-7 years
ng, s, z, consonant blends * 7-8 years
r 8-9 years
*Note- A lateralized production of s/z is a concern by age 5 if the error does not self-correct
Children often produce speech errors that are development, and most children outgrow these errors. For example, a four-year-old child should produce /f/ and /g/ in her speech, but /th/ is a normal error for her age. If your child has immature speech patterns, she may need help learning age-appropriate sounds.
Some children have unusual speech characteristics in their speech, such as deleting initial consonants or syllables from words. These irregular patterns can make children very difficult to understand. If your child is difficult to understand and/or frustrated when speaking, she may have a speech disorder. Talking with a Speech Pathologist about your concerns can help you determine if your child is experiencing delayed or disordered speech development.
An articulation disorder is the distortion or substitution of a speech sound, such as an inability to produce a certain sound like the /sh/ sound. Many speech errors are developmental in nature as mentioned before. When children cannot produce speech sound within the typical developmental range, they can be difficult to understand or sound unusual or immature.
A phonological disorder occurs when your child learns faulty patterns to string sounds together to form words. This can make your child very difficult to understand and even sound like he is speaking a different language. If you and other close family members are the only ones who can understand your child, or if your child frequently needs his speech “translated” for others, it is likely that he is experiencing this type of speech disorder.
Has your physician told you that your child may have apraxia of speech or dysarthria? These speech disorders have a neurological origin and make it difficult for an individual to coordinate movements needed for speech, or cause the speech musculature to be weakened. Adults may also suffer from these conditions after tramau to the brain due to accident or stroke.
Do you have speech concerns leftover from childhood that you would like to address? It is not uncommon to hear native English speakers with articulation errors, especially the /l/, /r/, and /s/ sounds. Adults with articulation errors may not have been identified as needing help during their school years, or may have not been motivated to work on their speech at that time.
Adults with residual developmental errors may be self-conscious with the way that certain speech sounds are pronounced. Speech therapy may be advantageous to you if the way you produce a sound is distracting to your listeners, or makes you difficult to understand. Therapy is not recommended for individuals who have a mild lisp of the /s/ and /z/ sounds, or errors that do not distract from what is being said. An example of this is when an individual does not pronounce /r/ at the ends of words and it sounds like a slight accent. Improving minor articulation errors such as these will not have much of a change on how your speech is received by others. If you are curious as to how your speech is perceived by others, contact us for a consultation.
Another completely different category of adult speech articulation errors has to do with imprecise articulation of speech sounds after some type of brain trauma. Individuals may need to “relearn” how to produce sounds, and practice speech patterns to help improve the quality of the produced sounds. Some individuals might need this practice coupled with increased volume, or use of intelligibility strategies. Often these services are provided in a rehabilitation center after a stroke or brain injury, though you can receive outpatient services at our clinic. Please contact us with questions.