What to expect when you’re expecting speech sounds
It is always exciting when your baby starts to make sounds. Little coos and bubbly belly laughs can bring a smile to your face. Piercing screams are sending you a message. As a child’s speech mechanism continues to develop, they start to babble using various sounds. Then, they start to use jargon – seeming to carry on whole conversations on their own, sounding intent and adult-like without actually using words. Once they start using words, you might hear their own versions (“ba” for bottle, “mama” for mom). But when do we expect that they will have all their sounds? What speech errors will they grow out of?
Two researchers, Sharynne McLeod and Kathryn Crowe, took on these questions in 2018. In their study, they compiled existing research on when English speakers learn each sound. Their findings are described in the chart below. The chart shows the average age where 90-100% of children had developed the sounds listed. For example, the average age children developed the p, b, m, d, n, h, t, k, g, w, ng, f, and y sounds was between 2 years 0 months and 3 years 11 months (i.e., before they turned 4). The average age children developed the l, j, ch, s, v, sh, and z sounds was before they turned 5. The chart also shows us that almost all English sounds should be developed before the age of 6.
You can use the chart to help determine if your child would benefit from a speech sound assessment completed by a speech-language pathologist. For example, if your child is 6 and does not yet have the sounds listed in the 5 years group, it is a good indication they may benefit from speech therapy.
Written By: Chelsey Salli
Registered Speech-Language Pathologist
Source: McLeod, Sharynne, and Kathryn Crowe. “Children's Consonant Acquisition in 27 Languages: A Cross-Linguistic Review.” American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, vol. 27, no. 4, 2018, pp. 1546–1571., https://doi.org/10.1044/2018_ajslp-17-0100.