As a parent it can be difficult to know whether your child’s speech sounds are developing typically or not.  Although each child develops at their own rate, there are certain speech characteristics that can tell you if your child may have a speech sound difficulty (articulation/phonology difficulty).

For children who are younger than 3 years, this may include:

  • Having difficulty producing early developing sounds such as ‘p,b,m,n,w’

  • Having difficulty making different vowel sounds such as ‘oo, ah, eh, aw, ow, ee, eye’

  • Limited babbling as a baby

  • Limited variety in the different word shapes used. For example your child may only use words that have a consonant and a vowel (e.g. “ma” for “mommy”, “da” for “doggy”, “o” for “open”).


For children who are older than 3 years, an articulation difficulty may include the following characteristics:

  • Your child’s speech is not understood by you more than 90% of the time

  • Others are having difficulty understanding what your child is saying on a frequent basis

  • Your child is often dropping the last sound of words (e.g. “pa” for “pat” or “po” for “pop”)

  • Your child uses reduplicated syllables “baba” for “bottle”, “wawa” for “water”, “baybay” for “baby”

  • Your child is substituting a single sound consistently for other sounds (e.g. ‘b’ for ‘m’ so that “mommy” becomes “bobby”)

  • Your child is making sounds that are made at the back of the mouth (e.g. K, G) at the front of the mouth (“tat” for “cat”), or stopping the airflow where the sounds should have continuous airflow (e.g. ‘s, z, f, v, ‘sh’). Often you will notice that the speech sound errors or patterns are influencing more than one sound (phonology difficulty).

  • Your child’s speech sounds slushy (lateral lisp)

  • the ‘R’ sound doesn’t sound quite right (sound distortion)


What does an assessment look like?

A comprehensive assessment of speech sound difficulties includes administration of standardized and non-standardized measures, including:

  • Showing your child pictures in a book and having them say the name of the picture or answering questions about the picture shown. I may also ask your child to repeat sounds, words and/or non-sense words.

  • During a natural conversation and/or play with the child, I will collect a phonemic inventory (sounds produced in words). I will then further analyze this information for patterns and/or speech sound errors.

  • An oral mechanism exam which involves observing how the jaw, tongue and lips move during non-speech and speech tasks as well as visualization of the oral cavity.


What does therapy look like?

Speech therapy for your child focuses on goals that address your concerns as a parent as well as the observations and results of the assessment(s). The most important piece of speech therapy is making sure that your child is interested, engaged and having fun! It is also essential that therapy includes you as parents, because you know your child best! As a speech therapist who has worked with children and their families for over 10 years at our local children’s treatment center, I have seen the importance of parent involvement in therapy sessions as well as the involvement of community partners  (e.g. resource teachers) in order for carry over of goals into your child’s everyday life. Therefore when possible, speech therapy will also include you as a parent: either through observation of the therapy techniques and strategies, participation in the activity and/or games or through direct parent coaching.