Milestones for Saying Sounds
By the age of four, the majority of children can say most sounds correctly (e.g., m, n, h, w, p, b, t, d, k, g, ng, f, y, s, z, ch, j, sh, l) and combine two or more consonant clusters (e.g., tw, sp, gl). Children may use clusters at the start (e.g., blue) or end of words (e.g., hand). Also, children will usually say most vowel sounds in words correctly (e.g., ay, oh, ee).
But some sounds are more difficult to pronounce than others. Most children will need another year to be able to correctly pronounce the ‘r and v’ sounds. It’s normal for the ‘th’ sound to take much longer. Many children will be eight before they can correctly pronounce words containing ‘th’.
Between the ages of four and five, preschool children start to develop skills that will be important for learning to read and write. Known as “pre-literacy skills”, they understand that words can rhyme, for example hat and cat. Some children struggle with these pre-literacy requirements which can make it difficult to learn to read and write.
By the age of five, a child’s speech should be easily understood by everyone, not just their close family members. It’s normal for a family to know what a child is saying because they know the context of the conversation and the words their child commonly uses. It’s important that a person outside the family can understand a child aged five.
A five year old will typically have a vocabulary of 2,500 words. They can speak in sentences and paragraphs and will usually have endless questions for parents and teachers as they develop an understanding of their world.
A child with a phonological disorder will experience one or more of the following:
Make the sounds correctly but use it in the wrong position in a word
Make the sounds correctly but use it in the wrong word
Make mistakes with the particular sounds in words
Stuttering and stammering is when speech is interrupted in its rhythm or flow. There may be hesitations, repetition or silent blocks where a child tries to speak but no sound comes out. Stuttering usually starts in early childhood, often by the age of three. The stuttering may change in type or frequency. Research shows 8.5% of three year old children experience stuttering. By school age, children may experience tension when they speak, be teased by their peers, suffer from anxiety and have social difficulties. In later life, the impairment may impact their education and occupational opportunities.
What You Can Do to Help Your Child’s Speech
Parents can do several things to help improve their child’s speech. Children learn to talk by listening to others so take every opportunity to talk to your child as much as possible. Name objects, people and places. Talk to your child from when they’re a baby about anything (even if they don’t understand what you’re saying). Children are happy to listen to a parent’s voice and be spoken to.
Later you can say a word, phrase or sentence and ask your child to repeat it to help them model your language. Speak slowly and articulate so your child has an opportunity to hear the sounds and attempt to repeat them.
See a Speech Pathologist
A speech pathologist/therapist is a person who diagnoses communication and speech problems and devises a treatment plan. Speech pathologists work with a wide range of people from babies with a cleft palate to elderly people with swallowing difficulties. An undergraduate or masters degree from an Australian university is required to work as a speech pathologist.
Have Your Child’s Hearing Checked
Some speech problems are related to poor hearing. A child needs to be able to hear spoken words clearly to repeat them correctly. A child may have passed their hearing test as a newborn but can develop a hearing problem later, particularly if they have had an ear infection. Speak to your GP if you have any concerns about your child’s hearing and organise a hearing check.
Let Your Child Speak
Much of the time (but not always!) a parent knows what their child wants. They might be pointing to their cup or pulling at the fridge door so it’s pretty clear what they want. Rather than completing their request after a point or grunt, tell your child to ask for it if they’re old enough. Repeat the word as you hand it over and encourage them to try to say the word/s with you.
Correct Your Child’s Speech
Parents are a young child’s most important teacher. When a child says a word incorrectly, let them know how to say it and encourage them to repeat the word with you. A little time spent with your child helping with their speech can pay dividends for their future.
Some HIF Extras Covers allow you to claim on visits to a speech therapist. For more information call HIF on 1300 134 060 or contact us online.