Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) hear this question daily. Should my three-year old be able to say the /g/ sound? How about the /r/ sound? Speech sound production is only one piece of the equation. In order to decide whether a child is “on track” with his or her sound development or needs remediation, we must look at several areas:
1. Sound Productions-The chart in our resource section HERE shows when 85% of children can produce certain speech sounds at the beginning, middle, and end of words. Some children will develop sounds much sooner than this chart and many will be later. A wide range exists with sound production.
2. Phonological Processes-A child may be able to produce sounds, but does not use them all the time. For example, a common process for young children is called final consonant deletion (FCD). In FCD, a child may say “boa” for “boat”, and “da” for “dad”. The chart in our resource section HERE breaks down all of the phonological processes by age.
3. Intelligibility-This is how well your child is understood by both familiar and unfamiliar listeners. This can be measured in words, sentences, and conversation. A typically developing 4-year old should be 100% intelligible, but may still have sound errors. According to Coplan & Gleason, 1988 and Flipsen, 2006, To an unfamiliar listener, children should be 25% intelligible at 1-year of age, 50% at 2 years of age, 75% at 3-years of age, and 100% at 4-years of age.
4. Hearing-If your child has not had a recent hearing screening, we will highly recommend getting one. Most pediatricians and pediatric audiologists can perform screenings. Speech sounds fall along a spectrum of frequencies from around 200-4500Hz and a slight dip in hearing ability at one or more frequencies can impact the child’s ability to hear, and thus produce, those sounds.
A licensed Speech-Language Pathologist will be able to properly assess your child’s sound productions, phonological processes, and intelligibility and determine if therapy is necessary.