Does my child have a speech problem(127500)
Credit: Photo by Tom Daspit

Determining Developmentally Appropriate Speech

"My three-year-old says 'fwench fwies'. Do you think he has a speech problem?" I cannot the count the number of worried parents who have asked me these type questions in the fifteen years I've been a speech therapist in the public school system - often in a non-school setting - at the hair salon, the pool, the doctor's office - usually as soon as someone learns what I do for a living. And I certainly understand their concerns. As a parent of three children myself, I understand how important reaching those developmental milestones are, and I also know it's often difficult to gauge where your own child stands in the area of speech development. After all, what is normal? The main thing to remember is, there is no such thing as normal. Just because Big Sister was reciting the Preamble to the Constitution in her Pull-Ups doesn't mean Little Brother will, or should be expected to do the same. Every child acquires each skill at different rates. Don't compare any one child to another.  Every child is different. But there are some guidelines for what is appropriate speech production by age:

By the time your child reaches his or her first birthday, he/she should be:

  • babbling
  • using gestures to communicate
  • imitating others' speech sounds
  • verbalizing one or two words

By age two:

  • using some one to two-word phrases, such as"Wanna tootie?" ( I want a cookie)
  • uses ten to twenty word
  • imitating animal sounds

By Age Three:

  • Consonant "lip sounds" should be correct: By that, I mean sounds that are articulated with the lips pursed (b,m,p).
  • other correct sounds:/w,h,n/.

By Age Four:

  • producing speech that is mostly understood by familiar listeners (mom, dad, grandparents, etc.
  • using two to three word sentences
  • should be correctly producing: /k,g,d,t/

By Age Five:

  • Speech should be more intelligible to unfamiliar listeners, even with errors
  •  should be correctly producing: /f,y/

By Age Six:

  • Speech should be highly intelligible to unfamiliar listeners, even with errors:
  • should be producing: /l/

By Age Seven:

  • should be producing /s, sh,ch,z,th/

By Age Eight:

  • should be producing the /r/ sound and words with blends such as 'stop" and "clock"
  • all sounds should be intact with almost no errors. Speech should be nearly 100% intelligible.

Remember, these are guidelines and not hard and fast rules, so don't stress if your child is a little behind. Also, note that girls typically develop speech skills a little earlier than boys. Of course, if you are still concerned, call your public school speech/language pathologist to set up a consultation. That is, after all, what we're here for.