Speech pathology for preschool kids

Speech pathology for preschool kids – why it’s important

Have you seen the movie, The King’s Speech?

King George VI tries to overcome his stuttering problem with the help of a speech therapist and makes himself worthy enough to lead the UK through World War II.

What does this have to do with speech pathology for kids, you may ask?

Well, early intervention from a speech pathologist is recommended for those who have speech, language and communication difficulties (though you can seek help at any age).

For stuttering in particular, it’s important to catch it and get it resolved prior to your child starting school.

So, had King George been helped much earlier, he may not have found himself in such a predicament.

Stuttering is only one aspect of speech pathology for kids. Let’s look at the stages of preschool children’s speech development.

Speech – 0 to 3 years

Learning to speak is a crucial part of a child’s development. The most intensive period of speech and language development happens in the first three years of life.

You generally can’t understand babies when they start making noises and try to speak. However, by 18 months, parents can start to understand a bit.

How well words can be understood by parents

By this age A child’s speech is intelligible by
18 months 25%
24 months 50-75%
36 months 75-100%

Source: Lynch, Brookshire & Fox (1980), p. 102, cited in Bowen (1998).

While most children are fully intelligible by 36 months, many toddlers have difficulty saying sounds correctly all the time.

Some words are more difficult than others for children to say, so they may make some sound errors (e.g. “tat” for cat and “pam” for pram).

Sometimes, children are difficult to understand when they’re using longer sentences.

What can parents do to help?

Parents can continue to help their toddler’s speech development by modelling the correct way of saying words, particularly when children make occasional sound errors.

However, if a toddler’s speech is very difficult for parents to understand, or if children are using gestures (and grunts) in place of words, parents should contact a speech pathologist for further advice.

You can see our in-house speech pathologist, Naomi DeNicolo, here.

You can also have your child’s hearing checked by an audiologist.

Speech – preschool (3 to 5 years)

Progress made in the preschool years is crucial to mastering the rules of language.

Preschool children start to use much longer sentences, yet their speech should still be understood by unfamiliar people (outside of the family) about 75% of the time.

By 5 years of age, anyone (including unfamiliar listeners) should be able to understand the child’s speech in conversation 95-100% of the time.

Some sounds are later to develop and children may still have difficulty with them at this age.

For instance, preschool children commonly have difficulty with “r” (e.g. saying “wed” for red), “v” (e.g. saying “berry” for very), and “th” (e.g. saying “fank you” for thank you).

What can parents do to help?

If you’re concerned about your child’s speech development, their hearing can be checked by an audiologist (as hearing is important in learning how to say sounds correctly).

In addition, speech pathology is recommended if:

  • kids can’t be understood
  • they’re frustrated with attempts to communicate
  • their speech appears very effortful
  • they’re using very few words, or
  • they’re not using sounds at the start of words (e.g. saying “ish” for fish).

Address and resolve issues early

By school age (5+), kids’ speech should be easily understood by everyone. So, it’s important to address any issues early, ideally before your child starts school.

For all ages, you can check your child’s progress according to these milestones. If you’re unsure about your child’s development, or have any questions, please reach out to us.

We’re only a phone call away on 9304 0500. We’d love to help your child reach their full capacity.


Source: Speech Pathology Australia