Advice for Parents: Speech Sounds

Speech Sound Production – What to expect? When is the right time to seek support from a Speech Pathologist?

Many children make errors in their speech when they are learning to talk, and often it’s adorable at a young age.  Words like ‘hospital’, ‘spaghetti’ and ‘truck’ can be difficult for little mouths to pronounce.

However – what should this learning process look like – as they grow?

Sometimes we meet children who have lots to say, but have speech that is hard to understand. Who should parents listen to, when it comes to childhood communication development?  


Some parents may choose to let the kids grow out of it in their own time, or wait until the kindy teacher mentions they need some help.  Some speech sound errors do correct themselves, at varying ages.

This blog aims to help parents find a bit of their way in what can be a confusing area – childhood communication development, specifically – speech sound disorders.

Common concerns from parents include:

  • children having difficulty pronouncing a certain sound,
  • speech seems effortful for their child,
  • or maybe the children are easy to understand when they use single words – but when speaking in sentences their words become more difficult to understand.


These are common situations that parents discuss with us on the phone, prior to booking their speech clarity assessments for their children.


It’s important to remember that Speech Pathologists are the only tertiary trained health professional qualified to help children remediate their speech sounds, or pronunciation.  Speech Pathologists also work with children to help them in other areas of communication, including assisting with developing language skills (speaking in sentences and understanding skills), decreasing or eliminating stuttering, and developing written communication skills (reading & writing).


So when seeking advice on whether your child might need some help with their speech sounds – asking a Speech Pathologist for advice, and/or seeking an individualised assessment is essential.

So when to seek help?

By the preschool years, 75% of what a child says should be able to be understood by others.*


By age five, 95-100% of what a child says should be easily understood and they should be starting to recognise the connection between speech sounds and written letters.*


Speech sound production should just develop normally as a response to hearing australian english sounds right?  – so what can go wrong?

Recent research* indicates the prevalence of difficulties with speech sounds in Australian Children:


Speech Sound Disorders: 1.06% of australian children 

  • Articulation Disorders e.g. Interdental or lateral lisps, structural difficulties


  • Phonological Delays/Disorders e.g. child substituting sounds for other sounds


  • Motor Speech Disorders e.g. effortful, laboured speech production due to difficulty with motor coordination, tone or strength.


Stuttering 0.33% of australian children.  

For more information on stuttering specifically, see our blog here!


Voice Disorders 0.12% of australian children.


The data also showed:

Boys are  2.85x more likely than girls to be identified.


Why is clear speech important?

We want our children to be great communicators!  Difficulties with speech clarity can lead to frustrations, behaviour and in some cases social difficulties.  Our speech pathologists help children speak clearly so they can:

  • reduce frustration
  • get clear messages across
  • become confident communicators
  • get ready for later literacy learning at school


Speech Pathologists can help!

Speech Pathologists, or Speech Therapists as they’re also known, help children to pronounce their speech sounds correctly.  We use thorough and individualised analysis or assessment to understand each child’s unique speech sound difficulties, and make a clear plan for treatment.

If you’re looking for more information – check out this blog we wrote on individual sound production and common types of sound errors in children.


If you would like support to help your child produce clearer speech, you can easily book online today!




* Mckinnon, David & McLeod, Sharynne & Reilly, Sheena. (2007). The Prevalence of Stuttering, Voice, and Speech-Sound Disorders in Primary School Students in Australia. Language, speech, and hearing services in schools. 38. 5-15. 10.1044/0161-1461(2007/002).

* Bowen, C. (2011). Table1: Intelligibility. Retrieved from on 7/1/19

* Speech Pathology Australia. The Sound of Speech: preschool and school aged children. Retrieved from on 7/1/19.