Speech development…what is normal?

As children start to talk, they vary in terms of how clear their speech is. Some children seem to speak clearly from the word go. Others start off clear and then become less clear as they say more. Others are difficult to understand at the start but as they acquire more words, the clarity also improves. All of these are variations of normal speech development. Given such variation, it can be hard for parents or educators to know whether or not there is a problem.

To help answer these questions, I have listed some links below to normal speech development, but before you jump to those, I wanted to share a few other thoughts. Sometimes there can be other things happening which affect a child’s clarity. This can include an underlying language problem affecting either understanding (comprehension) or speaking (expression).  Another factor could be a voice problem, where the voice is strained, quiet and/or lacks a variety of pitch (tune). Then there are children who are quite clear when speaking in single words, but their everyday speech is quite indistinct. Sometimes there can be temperamental factors such as the child’s confidence, or environmental factors such as familiarity with being in particular speaking environments. In other instances, a child may have underlying low muscle tone, affecting movement, energy and co-ordination, and this can have a knock on effect on speech clarity.

So, while the information below is useful as a guide, it doesn’t replace contacting a speech and language therapist if you feel that there is a problem.

Speech sound development chart

Ages and stages of speech and language development

Comprehensive article on speech development

List of speech simplification patterns and when they typically disappear in normal speech development

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