When to Seek an Evaluation for a Young Child's Speech Production
Many parents call us with questions about their child's speech. They notice that their child is not saying one sound or another, and they wonder whether this is something that they should be concerned about. As one might expect, there are a number of factors that have to be taken into account when formulating an answer. Let's discuss what they are. But, please remember that nothing is written in stone, and all children are different in how they learn and progress.
2 year olds
Between the ages of 1 and 2, children's speech typically becomes 50 – 75% intelligible. Although vocabulary at this age is small, and all speech sounds may not be developed, the words that are spoken should be intelligible at least half the time. Vowel sounds should be grossly accurate in spontaneous speech, with very few exceptions. Lip sounds /b/, /p/ and /m/ as well as lip closure around the spoon while feeding should be present. So it is more than age that we want to know. We want to know level of intelligibility, what sounds are cause for concern and about feeding skills.
Keep in mind that very young children, under three years of age, can be difficult to understand, even for their parents. In general, they are not yet producing all of the ~44 phonemes (speech sounds) that make up the English language and they are not producing complete sentences. The combination of incomplete sentences and incomplete grammar can render the toddler's speech unintelligible.
When parents have any concerns, professional guidance should be sought. Although many aspects of speech sound production may be treated at a later age, earlier treatment is typically shorter and more effective. Seeking professional guidance does not mean (although it may mean) that your child needs professional treatment, as all factors need to be considered.
As a general rule, parents know their children best, so if you come to believe that your child has a problem, you should consider obtaining an expert opinion to put your mind at ease.
3 year olds
According to Sara Rosenfeld Johnson, director of Talk Tools, "Oral motor skills for speech sound development are in by 3, meaning the child has the capacity to produce any phoneme." Also, according to numerous studies, by the age of 3 years, children are generally intelligible roughly 80% of the time. Their grammar is continuing to develop. They are using the "to be" verbs in their utterances e.g.," I am happy." Although physically, 3 year olds are capable of making all the sounds of English, they don't necessarily use them in their spontaneous speech. Once again, when determining the need for intervention, it is important to look at the whole picture. One major red flag is the distortion of vowels, which significantly impacts intelligibility. Another red flag, is a child whose production varies markedly from day to day. Thus, if a parent notices varied production, distortion of vowels, and many grammatical omissions, the child should be seen for an evaluation and will most likely need intervention. It is essential that intervention should be as early as possible. The tenacity of speech habits has already been noted. The course of treatment is smoother and the duration will be shorter than if a child begins therapy at between the ages of 3 to 4 years, rather than at 6 years, for example. Sometimes giving a child " a little more time" a phrase that some parents, teacher and pediatricians use, is really doing the child a disservice. It is also important to look at the social implications of speech sound disorders. If the child cannot be understood, does she make friends in the school setting? How is it affecting her ability to establish social relationships in school?