Speech Sound Development
Written By: Melissa Gagnon, Owner and Speech Language Pathologist &
Sarah Mohamed, Communication Disorders Assistant Student and Candidate
Speech sound development begins as early as birth and continues to develop as a child grows. All sounds are typically mastered at around 6 years of age and it is best to think of speech sound development in terms of age ranges rather than speech sound development occurring at fixed ages. Children may produce certain sounds in error as they continue to grow and develop the muscles that are required for speaking.
When assessing speech sounds, it is important to consider not only the number of sounds your child produces in error, but also your child’s intelligibility (how well they can be understood) and their stimulability (how easily they are able to produce a sound when copying you).
There are many reasons WHY your child may not be producing a certain sound (e.g., low tone, difficulty with muscle movements, structural differences, etc...) and if they are not meeting the age range of mastery for sounds outline below, it is advised that you reach out to a Speech Language Pathologist for an assessment.
Speech Sound Intelligibility
From the ages of 0-2, children produce speech that is unclear and typically unintelligible. This is due to the fact that they are still learning to communicate.
Typically an 18 month old is intelligible 25 % of the time.
Typically a 2 year old is intelligible 50 % of the time.
Typically a 3 year old is intelligible 75% of the time.
Typically a 4 year old is intelligible 90 - 100% of the time.
Early Speech Sound Milestones
From 0-6 months babies begin making cooing sounds (e.g “oo”,”ee”). At this age babies are making eye contact with the person who is speaking to them.
From 6-12 months babies begin making babbling and repeating sounds (e.g mama).
* NOTE: Children can develop these sounds BEFORE these ages and many sounds have a time RANGE of mastery.
Speech Sound Development from ages 18-24 months
1-2 years the child begins to say words with the early developing sounds: p- pup m- mom d- dog n- nap h- happy w- wee b- ball All vowel sounds
A child this age may still omit final consonants
Speech intelligibility is approximately 50% (meaning the child can be understood by unfamiliar listeners 50% of the time)
Speech Sound Development from ages 2-3 years
On average a child in in this age range is able to produce the following sounds: p- pup m- mom d- dog n- nap h- happy w- wee b- ball t- two f- fall k- kite g- go ng- sing
A child of this age produces the following syllable shapes: CV, VC, CVC, CVCV
Speech intelligibility is approximately 75% (meaning the child can be understood by unfamiliar listeners 75% of the time)
Speech Sound Development from ages 3-4 years
On average a child in in this age range is able to produce the following sounds: p- pup m- mom d- dog n- nap h- happy w- wee b- ball t- two f- fall k- kite g- go ng- sing l- look j- juice ch- cheese sh- shape v- van s- sun z- zipper
A child this age is able to produce 3-4 syllable words
Speech intelligibility is approximately 90-100% (meaning the child can be understood by unfamiliar listeners 90-100% of the time)
Speech Sound Development from ages 5-6 years
Speech sound should all be mastered by the age of 6 years old: p- pup m- mom d- dog n- nap h- happy w- wee b- ball t- two f- fall k- kite g- go ng- sing l- look j- juice ch- cheese sh- shape v- van s- sun z- zipper th (voiced)- this zh- beige r- rabbit th (voiceless)- thumb
A child this age should also be able to produce speech sound blends (e.g., 'snake', 'black', 'train')
Speech should be understood 100% of the time at this age range
Some other things you can watch out for are:
Initial consonant deletion (e.g; ‘at’ for ‘bat’ or ‘all’ for ‘ball’)
Vowel sound errors (e.g; ‘dag’ for ‘dog’)
Slurred speech or difficulty with sequencing sounds together (this may be connected to motor speech issues).
Frustration when your child is trying to communicate.
Remember, If you have concerns about your child's ability to be understood by others or if your child makes frequent speech sound errors while speaking, it's important to make note of it and consider a speech assessment by a Speech Language Pathologist. You can book a free screening appointment here: https://clcs.janeapp.com/