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When Should I Be Worried About My Child's Speech?

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

“When should I be worried about my child's speech?”

“How do I know if my child needs speech therapy?”

I hear these questions a lot from parents and the best advice I can give is to check to see if they are meeting their milestones for speech sounds.I spoke a bit ago about the different types of speech sound disorders. Here are some articulation and elimination of phonological patterns milestones for your child!

When people hear about speech therapy, most automatically think of us working on speech sounds. But how common are speech sound disorders? Overall, 2.3% to 24.6% of school-aged children are estimated to have speech delay or speech sound disorders (Black, Vahratian, & Hoffman, 2015; Law, Boyle, Harris, Harkness, & Nye, 2000; Shriberg, Tomblin, & McSweeny, 1999; Wren, Miller, Peters, Emond, & Roulstone, 2016). Also, a 2012 survey from the National Center for Health Statistics estimated that, among children with a communication disorder, 48.1% of 3- to 10-year old children and 24.4% of 11- to 17-year old children had speech sound problems only. That is quite a few children!

Articulation Disorders

An articulation disorder is a problem forming certain sounds correctly by a given age, such as difficulty producing the ‘r’ sound or having a frontal lisp. The child may drop, add, distort, or swap word sounds.

Here is the timeline for when your child should say certain speech sounds in English according to new research (McLeod, S. & Crowe, K. 2018):

  • 2-3 years: p, b, m, d, n, h, t, k, g, w, ng, f, y

  • 4 years: l, j, ch, s, v, sh, z

  • 5 years: r, zh, voiced th

  • 6 years: Voiceless th

Phonological Disorders

On the other hand, if your child often makes certain word speech mistakes, he or she may have a phonological process disorder. While speech and language mistakes are common in young children learning speech skills, when they last past a certain age it may be a disorder. Some examples are:

Speech Sound Disorders and Reading

So why have your child evaluated if you suspect he or she has a speech sound disorder?

Poor speech sound production skills in kindergarten children have been associated with lower literacy outcomes (Overby, Trainin, Smit, Bernthal, & Nelson, 2012) and a greater likelihood of reading disorders (relative risk: 2.5) in children with a preschool history of speech sound disorders (Peterson, Pennington, Shriberg, & Boada, 2009). That is why it is important to evaluate and address speech sound disorders at an early age.

These disorders as well as motor speech disorders can co-occur! For example, a child might have a severe phonological disorder and Childhood Apraxia of Speech or Childhood Apraxia of Speech and Dysarthria. A speech language pathologist can help with determining the existence and severity of these issues.

If you have questions or concerns about your child's speech sounds, call us. We can help.


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