By Nicola Grove, Honorary Senior Lecturer at University of Kent and Sarah Barnett, Independent Speech and Language Therapist in Somerset
We express our ideas to each other through speech. It’s a complex process that takes time. Children develop their ability to articulate sounds and coordinate sequences of sounds into longer words until they are over five. During this time, it is vital not to make children feel self-conscious or worried about their speech; this may discourage them from talking and sharing their ideas and may even cause stuttering.
90% of children master:
m, p, b, d, t, k, g, w, l, y, f, v, s, z, ch, h by 4
sh, j by 5
r by 6 years 5 months (many adults continue to pronounce r as w)
th by 7 years 6 months.
Trickier sounds to pronounce
sh: the tongue has the blade up and the sides down so that air escapes laterally
ng: the back of the tongue is raised against the back of the palate in the same position as the sound g, but in fact there is only one movement
th: the tongue tip slides between the teeth
j involves coordinating d with ge (as in genre)
ch involves coordinating t with sh.
Normal speech development
ALL children sometimes misunderstand what is said to them, utter oddly worded sentences, and put speech sounds and syllables in the wrong spots (or omit them) when they are learning to talk. It is part of the normal pattern of development for a child to:
say a sound in isolation, but not within words
say a sound in one position, but not in another, sh in fish, but not in shoe
say a sound in some words, but not others: c in car, but not in key
say th for s in sit (thit – showing he or she can say th) but, fing for thing
say s in sea, but tar instead of star.
Children find it easier to produce sounds in isolation than in words. Their production of sounds within consonant clusters and long multi-syllable words takes longer to develop, emerging gradually.
By four, a child's spontaneous speech should be intelligible to unfamiliar adults, even though some articulation and phonological differences are likely to be present.
When should you worry?
Your SENCO should refer a child for a hearing test and/or speech and language therapy if: