When it comes to speech development, children acquire individual speech sounds at different ages. This is often referred to as articulation development, the ability to pronounce sounds. The way these sounds are organised into patterns is referred to as phonological development. For more information on phonological development, follow this link. When we talk about speech, this incorporates aspects of clarity (how easy someone is to understand), as well as articulation and phonological development.
While children vary in their development of speech, milestones have been
identified that reflect normal development. These include that at:
- age 2: half of the child’s speech should be understood and a range of speech sounds used (including h, p, b, m, n, t, d, w)
- age 3: most of the child’s speech should be understood by family and friends and even more sounds used (including ng, k, g, f and s)
- age 4: unfamiliar people should understand the majority of the child’s speech and most sounds should be said correctly (including z, ch, j, l and y, all vowel sounds and groups of consonants)
- age 5: anyone, including unfamiliar listeners, should understand the child's speech in conversation and only a few sounds are still being learnt (r, v, th)
Learning to speak is a crucial part of a child’s development. The skills outlined above must typically be achieved by certain ages before a child can learn more complex skills. Normal developmental milestones are used by speech pathologists to determine whether a child presents with speech difficulties, including a speech delay or disorder.
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