When do different speech sounds develop?

When do different speech sounds develop?

What’s the difference between speech and language???

Language is the words and signs we use to get our point across. So when we’re learning a new language, we’re learning a lot of new words.

Speech is the way we say things and how all the sounds add up to make a word. If a child is working on their speech, they’re learning how to say their sounds correctly within words.


Children can have speech and language needs at the same time. They’re not mutually exclusive. Children can’t work on speech (how words are said) until they have language (the actual words).

When can I expect speech sounds to develop?

Check out this chart below - it’s a great cheat-sheet for speech sounds development. Each speech sound has a green bar. The start of the bar is the age at which 50% of all children have learned the sound at the start, middle and end of words. The end of the bar is where 90% of children have learned the sound. There, of course, will be some outliers.


When is this chart helpful?


  • A milestone chart can help you to answer the question ‘my child can’t say a particular sound, is it age appropriate for them to be struggling with this?’

  • It can prompt you to seek professional assessment or advice from a Speech-Language Therapist. It can also guide you as to whether you need to begin using some strategies at home. My ‘speech’ highlight on Instagram is full of ideas.


When is this chart not helpful?

  • It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about our children meeting or exceeding ‘normal’. Speech development is not a competition, and children can be slower to develop in this area for many understandable reasons, e.g. a history of glue ear or a family history of language delay.

  • Some children can say all the sounds that are appropriate for their age and STILL be difficult to understand. We call this ‘intelligibility’, a child that is hard to understand has ‘low intelligibility’.  Regardless of whether a child’s speech is ‘typically developing’, if you cannot understand much of what they are saying, seeking support to find ways to improve sound development is a good idea.

At the end of the day, each child is unique and has their own set of individual circumstances. To determine whether a child needs help with their communication, it’s good to think about whether their difficulties are impacting their ability to participate in interactions with others, and their wellbeing; whether their communication is bothering them. If your child is showing signs of frustration when they’re misunderstood or starting to shut-down, it’s probably time to start using some strategies to help them to learn new sounds and keep their confidence high.

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