It’s perfectly normal for children to make some mistakes as they learn to pronounce new sounds, and every sound has a different age-range at which we would expect kids to get the hang of it. While all children learn at their own pace, it is still helpful to monitor their progress as they reach speech-related milestones. By ensuring kids are fairly intelligible at the right age, we prepare them to get the most out of early schooling.
In this article, we will look at the general speech clarity milestones that it’s ideal for children to reach at particular ages, as well as the steps to take when kids need extra support. But before we get underway, it will help to briefly review the different kinds of speech disorders.
Types of Speech Disorders
Problems with children’s speech clarity can arise for a variety of reasons, whether it’s simply part of the learning process or is caused by a more serious issue such as hearing loss. Whatever the underlying reason may be, we can classify speech issues either as delays or disorders. A speech delay is when mistakes continue past an appropriate age, and is not necessarily a cause for concern; Young children often make speech errors such as the replacement of “r” sounds with “w”, or omitting sounds entirely. It is only worth investigating when these errors show no sign of improvement as the child matures. A speech disorder, however, can be more of a concern, as it is means a child is substituting or deleting a sound in a way that differs from the normal developmental process. Speech disorders are unlikely correct themselves with time.
When to be Concerned
Caregivers or people familiar to the child are in the best position to notice the early signs of speech disorders. That is to say, it’s worth considering extra support if a child is very difficult to understand by caregivers, if it looks like he or she is struggling to make sounds, or is aware that other people cannot understand his or her words. Below is a range of simplified speech clarity milestones, which although only approximate, will serve as a starting point to assess your child’s progress:
How You Can Help Improve Speech Clarity
If you are concerned about your child’s speech clarity, you may wish to spend some time helping him or her out. As a caregiver, you are the best person to encourage your child to learn new sounds! Below are some ideas to get started with.
Getting Professional Support
If a child is still hard to understand despite the best efforts of caregivers, the right course of action is to contact a Speech-Language Therapist (SLT). SLTs specialise in the assessment and treatment of speech clarity issues, and will provide advice relevant to your child and situation. The SLT will ask you about your individual circumstances, assess your child’s speech and – based on the information obtained – will give you reassurance and guidance specific to your situation and your child. You and the Therapist can then either monitor for signs of typical development or decide to commence speech-language therapy sessions if that is appropriate.
In summary and as your Speech-Language Therapist will tell you, the key to creating crystal-clear kids lies primarily with caregivers. By spending time chatting, reading and playing with your child, his or her speech clarity will be likely to improve. And remember, if you as the parent are still concerned in spite of your best efforts; don’t hesitate to consider speech therapy.