When to Seek Help for Speech Sound Errors

Deena Seifert, MS, CCC-SLP

“People say they can’t understand my child.”  We hear this a lot in our speech-language practices. Parents want to know when they should seek help for their child’s speech. Our answer is, “It depends.”

Usually by the age of three a child has their p, b, m, t, d and n sounds, but other sounds take longer to master. By the middle of kindergarten, a child should have all of his/her speech sounds. Some sounds take longer to come in. The r, s, l, and th sounds usually are the last to be corrected. If your child is not understood by strangers at the age of three 75% of the time, its’ a good idea to consult with a speech-language pathologist.

Common errors are substituting a /w/ for the /r/ sound, such as “won” for the word “run” or “broder” for “brother.” Sometimes children omit or leave out sounds such as “how” for “house.” Other times they distort sounds in words so that the word doesn’t sound quite right, like “pusgetti” for spaghetti.

My child’s speech sounds so cute!

It sounds cute to parents when their children are preschoolers, but by the time they enter kindergarten their speech sounds should be closer to adult speech.  I remember when my children no longer sounded like toddlers; I was sad, but it’s necessary for our children’s speech to grow with them.

If teachers, family and friends are noticing a problem with your child’s speech errors and your child is mid-year in kindergarten or older, it’s time to seek advice from a professional. A speech-language pathologist can evaluate your child and determine what kind of errors are being made, whether or not they are age-appropriate, and if you should seek treatment.

How do I find a speech-language pathologist?
You can contact the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) at www.asha.org and locate a certified speech-language pathologist (SLP) near you or contact your child’s school for a speech evaluation.

Why Seek Help?
Articulation disorders (speech sound disorders) can impact a child’s spelling and reading skills. An articulation disorder can also impact a child’s social life, because unfortunately peers can be less than kind to a child who “sounds funny.” Whatever the motivation, it’s wise to address this earlier rather than later. Early intervention is the key, because the prognosis for remediation is better for children who get help earlier.