Speech Delays

Children with speech delays have difficulty forming sounds correctly. Often the parents of children with speech delays report that unfamiliar people experience difficulty understanding their child.

Most children will make mistakes with the production of their speech sounds at some stage in their development. A speech sound disorder is when mistakes continue past a certain age. The speech pathologist’s role is to check if your child’s sound errors are age appropriate.

An articulation disorder (or functional speech sound disorder) involves problems making sounds. The sounds can be replaced with another sound or left off completely. For example a lisp on the ‘s’ sound.

A phonological process disorder involves patterns of sound errors. For example, substituting all sounds at the back of the mouth (k and g) for sounds at the front of the mouth (t and d). Again these patterns are typical in children’s development. A phonological processing disorder is when the patterns continue past a certain age. Children with phonological processing disorder are at risk of having difficulties learning to read and spell.

Speech pathology intervention may be required to teach your child certain sounds and to teach the correct speech patterns. It may involve demonstrating the correct production of the sound, teaching the child to recognise which sounds are correct and incorrect and practising the sounds in different words.

Speech sound delays can be caused by hearing loss, persistent middle ear infections, developmental disorders, and genetic syndromes (such as Down syndrome), however, they can occur without any known cause.

To help parents know if their child’s speech is clear enough for their age the following is a guideline.

By 18 months your child’s speech is
25% intelligible

By 24 months your child’s speech is
50-75% intelligible

By 36 months your child’s speech is
75-100% intelligible

By 3 and ½ years your child’s speech is
100% intelligible to all

To assist your child in developing good speech sounds model the words for your children to copy. If your child cannot copy the sounds correctly an assessment by a speech pathologist may be warranted.