When Should My Child Begin Speaking Correctly?

Ask the Experts by Sara Martin, M.A. CCC – SLP

Q: I understand my 4-year-old daughter well but others don’t. She uses sounds incorrectly. She becomes easily frustrated. My friends keep telling me not to worry. I’m not so sure. Should I be concerned?

A: The short answer is yes, you should be concerned. By age 3, the majority of a child’s speech should be intelligible to strangers.

The immediate concern is determining why your daughter is not well understood by others. Her ‘incorrect use of sounds’ likely indicates she has a speech-sound disorder. An assessment would be appropriate to determine the nature of the impairment: phonological, articulation, apraxia or another type of disorder. By 4 years old, most sounds in the speech-sound system should be developed, or emerging — meaning they are present in some positions of words but necessarily all positions.

The longer-term concern is the impact the speech-sound disorder may have on literacy acquisition for your daughter. Children with speech-sound disorders are at a higher risk for literacy acquisition struggles and those with persistent (long term) speech sound disorders are at an even higher risk. An underdeveloped phonological system will lead to challenges during the stage in which children receive phonics instruction—the marrying of oral speech sound awareness to print association and awareness.

Research has identified that children’s phonemic awareness skills at 5 years 8 months is a good predictor of literacy development. (2002—Nathan, Stackhouse, et al.). Given this critical window of learning, seeking out an evaluation earlier is better.

Sara Martin, M.A. CCC-SLP, is an ASHA certified speech-language pathologist who is in private practice in Grosse Pointe, Mich. She specializes in treatment of speech-sound disorders, literacy impairments, early childhood language delays and orofacial myofunctional disorders. Contact Sara at 313-815-7916 or www.speechwithsara.com. Sara is a member of the Family Center’s Association of Professionals.

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Don’t Let the Cuteness Factor Fool You: Speech and Reading Skills in Children

April 18, 2018
Christ Church Grosse Pointe, 61 Grosse Pointe Blvd., Grosse Pointe Farms

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Enriched Communities Through Stronger Families
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