The way children speak sounds different to adult speech because children make replacements of sounds that are typical in their development. These replacements follow a pattern and are called 'phonological processes'.
Research into typical children's speech development gives us indicators of the age at which these patterns usually resolve.
Here are some examples of the most common phonological processes and the ages by which they should have resolved:
- Voicing (e.g. pig as 'big') by 3yrs
- Final consonant deletion (e.g. sheep as 'she') by 3 yrs
- Fronting (e.g. cup as 'tup', shore as 'sore') by about 3 1/2 yrs
- Stopping (e.g. fish as 'pish', ship as 'tip') by 3yrs* (*later if other sounds 'stopped')
- Weak syllable deletion (e.g. banana as 'nana') by 4 yrs
- Cluster reduction (e.g. star as 'dar') by 4 yrs
- Gliding of liquids (e.g. let as 'yet', right as 'white') by 5 yrs
Children who present with some or all of these processes (beyond the ages when they should have resolved) may have a phonological disorder. To find out more about what a phonological disorder is and what the warning signs are, click here.