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Speech Sound Therapy

By four years of age a child can be easily understood by unfamiliar listeners. Speech sounds start to develop from 18 months of age. It’s perfectly normal for children to make mistakes as they are learning but there are certain ages it is developmentally appropriate to have each sound mastered. By ensuring children are using speech sounds correctly at the right age, we prepare them to get the most out of early schooling, as literacy is based upon speech sounds.

Problems with children’s speech clarity can arise for a variety of reasons, whether it’s simply part of the learning process or is caused by a more serious issue such as hearing loss. Whatever the underlying reason may be, we can classify speech issues either as delays or disorders.

A speech delay is when a child isn't maturing in their speech sound abilities and sound like a younger child. This isn't necessarily a cause for immediate concern. However, if a child can't fix up these sound changes by themselves, by six years of age they would benefit from support.

A speech disorder is more of a concern, as it means a child is substituting or deleting sound(s) in a way that differs from the normal developmental process. Speech disorders are unlikely to correct themselves with time. A child’s speech can be difficult to understand and cause much frustration.

Knowing the type of disorder determines the best course of treatment. Subcategories of speech include:

  • Articulation Disorder, physical difficulty making sound(s) accurately, including lisps

  • Phonological Disorder, the sound can be made but not used accurately in words

  • Childhood Apraxia of Speech, a motor planning difficulty

  • Dysarthria, a slurry quality

If a child is still hard to understand despite the best efforts of caregivers, the right course of action is to contact a Speech-Language Therapist (SLT). SLTs specialise in the assessment and treatment of speech clarity issues, and will provide advice relevant to your child and situation.

The SLT will ask you about your individual circumstances, assess your child’s speech and give you guidance and recommendations specific to your situation and your child.

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