Parents are often concerned that their child is not demonstrating appropriate language skills by different age levels. A previous article, Language development in children, discussed the three phases of language – inner language or the language in which we think; receptive language or the ability to comprehend the spoken word and finally, expressive language or the language in which we communicate. Expressive language consists of both visual and auditory behavior.
Articulation or the way in which your child pronounces words becomes problematic for some parents as well. The way a child pronounces certain letters or words is more a matter of age than a concern. Speech/language pathologists try to determine if a speech error is developmental or not by using what they call “sound acquisition norms” or “speech sound norms”. Speech sound norms are tools that are used to determine which errors are developmentally appropriate and which errors are not. These norms can be a useful tool to parents as well as speech/language pathologists when it comes to setting expectations of children’s speech.
It is useful for parents to know that the /s/ (s sound) and the /r/ (r sound) are not typically mastered by the majority of children until the age of five or six. It is true that some children may master these sounds as early as three or four but if a parent is concerned about those sounds earlier than age five it should not be a worry.
Speech sound development and the norms taken from the Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation 2 (2000) state the following:
Initial sounds = /b/ /d/ /h/ /m/ /n/ /p/
Medial sounds = /b/ /m/ /n/
Final sounds = /m/ /p/
Initial sounds = /f/ /g/ /k/ /t/ /w/
Medial sounds = /f/ /g/ /k/ /ng/ /p/ /t/
Final sounds = /b/ /d/ /g/ /k/ /n/ /t/
Initial sounds = /kw/
Medial sounds= /d/
Final sounds = /f/
Initial sounds = ch j /l/ /s/ sh y /bl/
Medial sounds = ch j /l/ /s/ sh /z/
Final sounds = /l/ ng ch j /s/ sh /r/ /v/ /z/
Initial sounds = /r/ /v/ /br/ /dr/ /fl /fr/ /gl/ /gr/ /kl/ /kr/ /pl/ /st/ /tr/
Medial sounds /r/ /v/
Initial sounds = /z/ /sl /sp/ /sw/ th
Medial sounds = th
Final sounds = th
This table is the age at which 85% of the GFTA-2 Standardization Sample correctly produced the consonant and consonant cluster sounds.
It is important to look at each child as an individual to determine the impact of sound production errors. Remember to consider how the child’s speech errors are affecting their ability to communicate, how they may affect their school work and also how they impact their interactions with peers as well as their self-esteem.