As a parent you may be concerned if your child's speech is unclear. If you any have concerns, do seek the opinion of a speech and language therapist/ a speech language pathologist.
They will be able to discuss your concerns with you and let you know what sounds your child would be expected to be able to say clearly at their age.
Speech Sound Assessment
If you do schedule a speech sound assessment for your child with a therapist, they will likely carry out a picture-based assessment. They will ask your child to say the names of the pictured items or to repeat the words (if they find it difficult to name the items on their own). They may play a game as a reward at the end or during the assessment to gain your child's interest and attention.
The range of words in a speech sound assessment are designed to show how the child uses each sound in different word positions (at the beginning of a word, in the middle of a word and at the end).
In some cases, the focus may be on assessing your child's ability to produce single sounds and shorter words (consonant and vowel words e.g. bee, bye, bow) depending on your child's level of speech difficulty.
In other cases, the speech language professional may ask your child to say phrases and sentences so that they can assess their use of different sounds in phrases and sentences as well as in single words.
Typical Speech Sound Development Norms
Assessment scores will typically be compared to age norms. All children make speech sound errors when they are learning to talk. We call the patterns of speech sound errors that children make phonological processes. Some sounds are mastered at an earlier age while others tend to be mastered later. To find out more about speech sound norms, check out our blog post on the topic. You can also download our Speech Sound Norms chart here:
The speech and language therapist will certainly make a note of speech sound errors that your child makes but they will also pay attention to the sounds that your child is producing instead. Some children will follow typical speech sound error patterns, but beyond the age at which they would usually be resolved. These children may have a speech sound delay. Other children who make atypical speech sound errors may have a speech sound / phonological disorder with more severe difficulties.
The speech and language therapist will also consider your child's speech intelligibility. Some children have difficulty with many sounds but they are still quite understood well by most people. Other children may have a problem with a couple of sounds, but other people may find them very hard to understand.
Consistency of Speech Sound Errors
The speech and language therapist will also consider how consistent your child's speech sound errors are. They will want to find out if they say the same word in the same way each time or if their errors vary. They will also likely make a note of whether your child says words more clearly when asked to repeat rather than when speaking freely and vice versa.
Speech Therapy after Assessment
Once the speech sounds assessment is complete, the therapist will make a therapy plan, let you know how much therapy may be needed and guide you with homework practice.
Some children only need a small number of sessions while others may need regular speech therapy input. It really depends on each individual child's needs.
You can play a big role in helping to improve your child's speech clarity by carrying out the homework tasks advised.
Always ensure that you feel confident to carry out homework tasks and don't be afraid to seek more guidance from your child's speech and language therapist.