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Speech: I can’t understand what my child is saying!

Speech sounds- what to expect and what to do!

What speech sounds should my child be able to say?

It can be a bit worrying when you notice other children are speaking more clearly than your own child. 

I need to translate everything my child says!

What should I expect from my child? 

It’s natural to worry about your child. Seeking advice sooner rather than later, can save time later supporting your child, and reduce the impact of speech sound delays on literacy (reading and writing). 

What is speech?

Speech is how we say sounds and words. It includes:

  • Articulation: we use our mouth, lips and tongue to make sounds. We need to be able to make the k sound to say ‘cat’ instead of ‘tat’. 
  • Voice: we use our vocal folds and breath to make sounds. Sometimes these sounds are too loud, or too quiet. Using our voice incorrectly (talking too much, yelling or coughing lots) can hurt it.
  • Fluency: This is the way our speech flows. We might repeat sounds or words, or pause when we talk. If this happens regularly, it may be considered a stutter.

Speech is a verbal way of communicating and requires muscles and control of these muscles. Sounds are blended together to make words. It’s a complex tasks, which is quite hard work for your brain and muscles!! You might have noticed that your child changes one sound for another e.g. says ‘tat’ for ‘cat’, or leaves sounds out of words like ‘lide’ for ‘slide’, or ‘da’ for ‘dog’. These are examples of children who might be having difficulties with speech. 

So, what’s ‘normal’?

Studies show that nearly all sounds are developed by age 4, with all mastered by age 6. 

What this means for you- is that if you can’t understand your child almost 100% of the time, when they are 4, you might need to have a chat with a Speech and Language Therapist. 

McLeod and Crowe suggested the following ‘norms’ in 2018, which is the most current information we hold on when we can expect speech sounds to develop. 

speech sound norms

Speech sound work is a little bit more complex than just the norms above, so if you are finding your child hard to understand, and that they don’t meet some of these norms- an evaluation will give you more specific information for your child.

What can I do to help my child?

Model, model, model!

Repeat back what your child has said, without having an expectation for them to fix up what they have said. 

For example:

Child: “loot mum! I dee a tat”

Parent: “oh LooK! I see a Cat too!!”

Talk about the sounds you hear in words, and what you are doing to make those sounds. Again, there is no expectation for your child to fix their sounds up. 

For example:

“oh, cow. That has the sound ‘k’ at the start. When I make my ‘k’ sound, my mouth is open and the sound comes from the back of my mouth!”

Avoid ‘repeating’ sounds to emphasie them to your child. Often we want to repeat the first sound of a word to highlight it when our child is getting it ‘wrong’- c-c-c-cat. Instead, just say the word, with a slight emphasis on the incorrect sound Cat!

Contact us today if you have concerns with your child’s sounds. We’d love to chat about your child, and help with some information!