Speaking, one of the most complex tasks known to mankind. We are all so adept at speaking, interpreting others speech so quickly, that we rarely realize the importance of this skill. It is only, when someone loses their ability to speak or cannot speak intelligibly that the overwhelming value of speech is evident.
Lately, in my consultations I am seeing parents confused, stressed and overwhelmed about the intelligibility of their child’s speech. They tell me ” Our neighbors child speaks in full sentences and we can all understand her. However, when my son speaks, we have to translate it to others. Both these kids are the same age” Is this normal? Is he delayed?
Therefore, the purpose of this post is to give you a brief overview about how speech is produced and a simple chart showing the hierarchy of sounds that corresponds to their of age of acquisition.
How is speech produced?
We have six systems in our body, that needs to work in synchrony to produce speech, like an Orchestra!
One system that is not shown in the picture is the Auditory System, which is our ears. It helps us monitor others speech and make adjustments when appropriate.
This process of using all your systems to produce speech is called Articulation. I was impressed at the beginning, to realize the time frame that is required to execute all these actions internally in your body and then speak. So next time, when you speak be conscious of all those amazing systems, that are perfectly put in place to help you speak.
Articulation is a complicated skill to master. A great analogy, I came across once, is that it is like learning to ride a two-wheeled bicycle. Some children will sit, stumble a little and just take off. Few others will take their time in coordinating and mastering the skill at their own pace. The mouth is like a bicycle, and the teeth, tongue and lips are the pedals, handles and brakes that should all work together to achieve speech sounds.
One of the earliest sounds to master are usually lip sounds “p,b,m,w”. Words like “papa, ball, my, whee” may start sounding perfect. Every child goes through a hierarchy of learning the different sounds specific to that age. It is through listening, trial and error they learn to produce clear speech.
The first words which happen to be between 12- 18 months, and going forward may not sound perfect. The joys of listening to their cute words, ‘dudu’ for milk. If a child uses a specific word, for e.g. ‘doo‘ for ‘juice’ and he/she is using it functionally to request for more juice. Then, try to avoid saying things like “No, don’t say like that, It’s juice“. Instead say, “You said juice. Let’s get more juice” . You are modelling the correct pronunciation of ‘juice’ for the child. The more you do it, eventually their speech improves.
However, by two years toddlers speech should be 50% intelligible to everyone. By three years, it should be 75% intelligible and between four years to five years, it should be 100% intelligible.
|Age of Child||90% children master these sounds|
|2 years old |
3 years old
4 to 5 years old
6 to 7 years old
s,z,j,l,r,sh,ch,th and blends (‘bl’ as in blue)
Hence, if your child has passed the speech sounds hierarchy and is still struggling with his/her speech, then it would be worth to consult a speech therapist. Articulation difficulties are usually easy to tackle if they are intervened early and the progress is good.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. Until next time..
SOURCES: Early Language Handouts by Super Duper Inc, Evaluating and Enhancing Children’s Phonological systems by Barbara Hodgson, Color Me fluent by Super Duper Inc and Language Disorders by Rhea Paul