Speech Sound Delay
Children gradually learn speech sounds as they learn to talk. Some speech sounds are learned earlier than others. The chart below is based on the work of Shriberg (1993). They found that there is some consistency to the order that children learn speech sounds. The sounds are split into 3 groups – early developing, middle developing and later developing.
When should a child have mastered the production of all speech sounds?
Children naturally make a number of speech errors when they are learning. For example, a two-year old child may say 'tar' instead of 'car'.
Generally errors fade and most children learn to produce sounds correctly as their language develops. Some speech sounds are mastered earlier than others. The chart below takes speech sound norms from the Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation. It shows the typical ages at which most English-speaking children have mastered different sounds.
Some children have persistent speech sound errors and they don't master certain sounds at the expected age. In other words, their speech sound development may be delayed.
There have been many studies on speech sound acquisition norms. Some of the most well-known studies had slightly different results. This tells us that there can be some variability in what is considered the norm.
Therefore it is important to use the chart above as a general guide. All children can develop speech sounds at different ages.
Speech Therapy Assessment of Speech Sound Production
When we assess a child's speech sound development, we normally ask the child to say a range of words to find out how they say each sound in different positions – at the beginning of a word, at the end, in the middle, in consonant blends (e.g. pl, spr or cr).
We also consider the following:
the child's speech intelligibility
speech sound substitutions/the sounds the child is using instead
the consistency of the child's speech sound productions
When to Seek a Speech and Language Therapy Assessment
A 2 year old child who is mainly using vowels (a,e,o, i u) and very few consonants
A 3 year old child whose speech is difficult to understand
A child who has difficulty moving their tongue or jaw
A school-age child who makes many speech sound errors