Ask The SLP: Speech Sound Development

Ask the SLP: “I’m worried about how much others can understand my child’s speech, what sounds should they be producing?”

One of the top questions I get asked as a speech language pathologist by parents, teachers, and other therapists is about speech sounds and a child’s intelligibility. It can be a very confusing aspect of speech and language because all kids do develop speech at different rates. But I’m here to offer a quick review of speech sound development and norms to help you navigate this area of communication! 

Just like with language development, there are norms and averages for developing different speech sounds. If you were to google “speech sound development,” there would be a few different results but the most current averages are in this blog. I’ve listed the typical ages that sounds will emerge as well as intelligibility, which is the percent of a person’s speech that is understood, in the table below. 

Age Speech Sounds Intelligibility
6 years th as in ‘thing’ Understood 100% of the time
5 years R, zh, th as in “the” Understood 100% of the time
4 years L, j, ch, s, v, sh, z Understood 80-90% of the time
2-3 years P, b, m, n, t, d, k, g, w, ng, f, y Understood 50-70% of the time

Some children may develop sounds later or earlier than others. So, if you have a three-year-old and they’re not yet producing “r” or “th”, no need to worry yet! The littlest ones should be producing simple consonant sounds as they continue to develop their language. As your child gets older, monitor both their speech sound development and intelligibility. Don’t feel like you need to run to a speech language pathologist the moment they turn 6 and aren’t consistently producing “th”! However, if you are noticing a discrepancy or would like to have a better understanding of your child’s skills, talk to a Speech Language Pathologist at Eyas Landing. Speech language pathologists at Eyas Landing support speech sound development in a natural way. We use an integrated approach by following your child’s lead during therapy and making treatment more functional to everyday life. We can also provide strategies and activities to try at home so you can work on improving your child’s intelligibility in their natural environment.  

Not all children will fit into the cookie cutter of speech development but it’s important to have an idea of where they should be. And if you have questions or concerns, it’s always best to ask a professional! 

Eyas Landing is a therapy clinic with a mission to provide evidence-based and family-centered therapy services for children, adolescents, and their families. The primary goal is to deliver relationship-based interventions within the most natural environments and to empower families to reach their full potential. To achieve this goal, our highly educated, compassionate staff dedicates time and expertise to create experiences that maximize therapeutic outcomes. The strength, determination, and perseverance of our clients are evident as they succeed in therapy, and ultimately in their daily lives.

Eyas Landing offers a wide range of comprehensive services including Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, ABA Therapy, Social Work, Family Therapy, and Neuropsych testing. Services are provided throughout the Chicagoland area via Telehealth, In-Home, and in our state of the art clinic.

Want to learn more or you have a specific question? Feel free to connect with us here!

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