Diagnosing speech delays

Do you ever wonder if your child’s speech skills are normal? We don’t expect a three year old to have perfect speech, but we do expect excellent articulation skills from a ten year old. Here are a few questions to help you figure out whether your child is developing articulation skills at a normal pace or whether you should be concerned. These are just general guidelines. If you have concerns, you may want to have your child evaluated by a speech pathologist, who might suggest therapy or assure you that your child is developing normally. My book, Super Star Speech: Speech Therapy Made Simple also contains a simple articulation test that assesses each sound.


*Can my three-year-old be understood by people outside the family? Three year olds have usually not mastered all of the speech sounds yet, but strangers should be able to understand much of what they say. It can be very frustrating for a child when others cannot understand his speech.


*Is my 5-year old easy to understand? 5-year olds may still have 3 or 4 “tough sounds,” but they should not be interfering significantly with his intelligibility at this point.


*What do others say about my child’s speech? Often parents are so accustomed to their children’s speech patterns that they do not even notice that little Johnny says “th” instead of “s” or leaves “r” off the ends of his words. I have met 10 or 12 year olds whose parents seem not to notice that their children have difficulty with some sounds even though everyone else does notice!


This is a list of the approximate ages at which children should have mastered different sounds. Of course all children develop differently and may not master sounds in this exact order. There are also other factors that a speech-language-pathologist would consider in determining whether a child’s speech patterns are within normal limits or delayed. For example substituting “th” for “s” at age 6 is normal, but omitting “s” entirely or substituting “t” for “s” would be a concern (and impacts intelligibility much more).


Articulation Sounds-Age Chart

Age 3 —— p, b, n, m

Age 3 ½— t, d, k, g, ng, w, y

Age 4—— f, v

Age 5—— l

Age 6—— ch, sh, j, th

Age 7 —— s, z, r, blends




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Comments: 2
  • #1

    Jennifer (Sunday, 02 October 2016 20:49)

    Wow! I love your website. So much great info. This "mastery" list is just what I was looking for. My 4.5 year old is learning to read, but has trouble with /th/ as in "the". Looks like I don't need to worry about it, yet. I just have him watch me say "the" and then have him copy my lip/tongue movements. It's been quite effective, but we're still not at mastery. If you have any products you'd like reviewed, I'd be happy to review them at my blog. I homeschool lots of kiddos, including one with Down syndrome.

    I found your blog through one of my readers, Rebecca R., who recommended your program.

  • #2

    Debbie Lott (Monday, 03 October 2016 18:01)

    I'm so glad you found it helpful!