Speech Development
Milestones

To determine the need for speech therapy and to create articulation goals, speech therapists assess a child's speech production and records his/her errors at the word and sentence level. Depending on the types of errors, frequency of errors, and which sounds the child is having trouble with, a client may or may not qualify for therapy. 

However, the speech development milestones are outdated and I am so PLEASED to report that a new research study has provided a MUCH NEEDED UPDATE!



Updated Speech Development Milestones

In 2018, McLeod, S. & Crowe, K. completed a cross-linguistic review of 27 languages and the results of the study revealed some interesting findings!

This study shows that 75-85% of English-speaking children produce all consonants besides voiceless "th" by the age of 5. This has HUGE clinical implications such as:

  • 4-year-olds should work on /s/, /v/, and /l/
  • 5-year-olds should work on any sound they can't say correctly, even /r/!

To access the article, click here. 

Problems with past research

School therapists rarely work on /r/, /s/, /z/, and /l/ until first or second grade!!!! This has always bothered me. Clinically, I have been seeing a need to work on articulation sounds much earlier but there was no research to back up that idea.

When working in schools, preschool and kindergarten students with low intelligibility and many "later developing" sound errors, weren't seen until first or second grade. Schools waited to see if they "outgrew it." The reasoning behind this clinical decision was based on research from the 70s.

However, I noticed that none of these children "outgrew" their errors. Instead, they spent 2-3 more years saying their sounds incorrectly before therapy would begin. Then, therapy was "that much harder." Also, these students ended up in therapy FOR YEARS.

Current Practices At Speech Therapy Talk Services, LLC

After reading this article, I instantly changed my practice policy. 

I know target /s/, /z/, /l/, /r/, etc... with my 4 and 5-year-old clients, and low and behold, they master these sounds in months, yes months!!!! Not years!!!! 

Articulation Chart (Ages)

Below is the updated speech development milestones chart based on the latest research. 

Age

Intelligibility

Sounds


2-3 Years

75-80%

P, B, M, T, D, N, H, T, K, G, W, NG, F, Y

4 Years

90%

L, J, CH, SH, S, V, Z

5 Years

100%

R, ZH, TH (voiced)

6 Years

100%

TH (voiceless)

How To Use This Chart:

  • Find the age of your child on the left.
  • Next, scan across the row to the intelligibility column. Intelligibility indicates how much others understand your child.  For example, a 3-year-old may not be saying all sounds correctly; however, listeners can still understand 90% of his utterances.   
  • The next column indicates which sounds 75-85% of children are able to say correctly by the age in the corresponding row.

My child isn't saying all the sounds listed by his/her age.
What Should I do?

If you are concerned about your child, I recommend that you:

To learn more about speech disorders, please read

If you need materials and ideas RIGHT NOW, please explore our

  • speech activities for home practice ideas. It is a great place to start! Playing games with your child and modeling correct speech is always a good idea :)
  • tailored activities and step-by-step teaching strategies, cueing techniques, flashcards, word lists and specific games for each sound in our member's section. For a small fee, you will have access to everything you need.

Free Printable Charts

If you need a free printable articulation chart to track progress or to provide to parents as handouts/references, please just answer a few questions and the charts are all yours! You will also join our free newsletter. 

Free Articulation Charts

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› Speech Development


Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech-language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series






References

  • McLeod, S. & Crowe, K. (2018). Children’s consonant acquisition in 27 languages: A cross-linguistic review. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. doi:10.1044/2018_AJSLP-17-0100.
  • Clinical experience