When are Speech Sounds Developed?

When are Speech Sounds Developed?

One of my jobs as a speech language pathologist is to know when a speech error is developmental or non-developmental. Developmental, meaning it is an appropriate error based on the child’s age, or non-developmental, which would then need to be addressed in speech therapy.

One way of figuring out if a speech error is developmental or not is by using what are called “sound acquisition norms” or “speech sound norms”. Speech sound norms are tools that speech language pathologists (SLP’s) use to help guide them in determining which errors are developmentally appropriate and which errors are not. There are multiple speech sound norms that are currently being used by SLP’s all around the world.

The criticism these speech sound norms receive is that they are not consistent with one another. In an online conference on the “Confusion About Speech Sound Norms and Their Use” given by Gregory L. Lof, Ph.D.,CCC-SLP in 2004 he asks the question, “Do we know when speech sounds are learned?” He then compares some of the classic sets of speech sound norms that have been used by SLP’s for years including Sander (1972), Prather, Hedrick, & Kern (1975), and Templin (1957). He also includes more recent norms like Smit et al. (1990), and Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation (2000). His findings revealed large discrepancies from one set of norms to the next. For example in his study, the /t/ sound is mastered at the age of 2 years 6 months in one set of norms, in another 3 years, in another 3 years 6 months, in another 4 years and in another 6 years old. He concluded that we don’t really know at exactly what age sounds are mastered.

On the other hand, without studies done to determine speech norms and tests like the Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation, which is a standardized test developed to determine percentiles and age equivalents, I don’t know how we would be able to measure a child’s progress compared with their peers. While all the studies on the acquisition of sounds may not agree on exactly what age a child masters a particular sound I believe they give us very useful information on what sounds are typically developed within the first 2-3 years, what sounds may not be fully developed until 4-5 years and what sounds we may expect to be as late to develop as 6 or 7 years.

When are Speech Sounds Developed - Mommy Speech Therapy

The reason I felt compelled to write a post about speech sound norms is because I believe they can be a useful tool to parents as well as speech language pathologists when it comes to setting expectations of our little ones’ speech. For example I think it is useful to know that the /s/ and the /r/ sounds are not typically mastered by the majority of children until the age of 5 or 6. It is true that some children may master them as early as three or four but if a parent comes to me and tells me their three year old can’t say their /r/ sounds, I’m not too worried.

I do however believe it is also important that we do not place too much emphasis on the speech sound norms in the way of using them to determine eligibility for therapy. Especially when there is so much discrepancy from one set of norms to the next. Think of the children with special needs. If we use these norms to determine when we begin therapy we may not begin working on sounds until “90%” of their normally developing peers have mastered the sounds. Is this fair? It seems that they should be given a head start instead of holding them back.

As a general rule I like to use speech sound norms as guidelines for which sounds I may try to stimulate next, but if I find a child is more stimulable (they can say the sound in imitation or can easily be taught the sound) for the th sound than the /f/ sound I am going to teach the th sound before the /f/ sound even though according to the norms the th sound is mastered later than the /f/ sound.

So if I haven’t confused you completely I would like to share speech sound norms with you to use as a guide when you look at your child and try to determine if their sounds are developmentally appropriate. I have decided to share the speech sound norms from the Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation-2 from 2000. The reason I share this one is because it is the most recent one that I am aware of and was done by a very reputable source in the field of speech language pathology. I believe it to be reliable.

When are Speech Sounds Developed - Mommy Speech Therapy

Speech Sounds Development Chart - Mommy Speech Therapy

Remember to not get hung up on what age the “typical” child masters a specific sound. Use this as a general guide only! You can download a PDF of this Speech Sound Development Chart here or you can visit the worksheets page and download it there as well.

Let us look at each of our children individually and think also of how our child’s speech errors are affecting their ability to communicate, how they may affect their school work, their interactions with their peers and their self esteem. Let’s be advocates for our children’s development and give them the support they need to be effective communicators whether or not it is the “right time” to address a specific sound according to speech sound norms.


  1. What a great chart–thank you!

  2. Hello, I found your blog using my google-fu and just wanted to say I’m loving it!

  3. The chart is interesting. My 5 year old daughter struggles with the /k/ sound (makes it the /t/ sound), yet can say it correctly when paired with /l/. For instance, the /kl/ blend in “clam” and “clue”. This is the same for the /g/ sound, struggles with it (it becomes the /d/ sound) except for cases like “glue” and “glam”. Is there a way I can get her to separate the /k/ and /g/ from the /l/ blend without losing correct pronunciation?

    Love your site! Thanks!

  4. Alison,

    You can definitely use those blends she is saying correctly to help shape the correct production of /k/ and /g/ in words beginning with /k/ and /g/. For example, I might have her say “clamp” then “c-lamp” then “c-amp” and then eventually “camp”. Because she is saying the /k/ and /g/ correctly in blends it is like that she can say the /k/ and /g/ sound in isolation, or all by itself which means you can also follow “The Process of Articulation Therapy” post to move the correct production of /k/ and /g/ from isolation all the way to conversation. The worksheets I have available are also a great tool for practicing the /k/ and /g/ sound in words. Hope this helps!


  5. Heidi, I just wanted to say how thankful I am for your website. I am from Guatemala, (Central America) and learned to speak English later on in life. My daughter, being raised bilingual, is having trouble with /th/ in English and /r/ in Spanish. She just turned 4, a month ago. We’ve been practicing in front of a mirror and she is getting the /th/ at the beginning of the word, and I will use your worksheets to keep practicing. I am focusing in the /th/ sound for now… we’ll work in that /r/ later on. 🙂 I was getting worried, but now that I read about the Speech Sounds Norm, I feel relieved! 🙂
    Thanks again, I like your site! 🙂

  6. I recently received my masters as an SLP. I am working with a 2 year old little girl who has apraxia. I want to provide a list of word approximations to her caregivers (so they can help target words at home). I will certainly make a list from scratch, but in the interest of not “reinventing the wheel,” is there a good source (professional/ASHA or google) that lays out examples of word approximations for common words? For instance, a two-year old may say “top” for “stop.” I’m curious if there is such a list for the preschool age. I have throughly enjoyed your blog and was interested if you have seen a “list” anywhere! Thank you!

  7. Jenny,

    I had to laugh when I read your comment because I can not count the number of times I heard the phrase “Don’t reinvent the wheel” in grad school. Unfortunately, I have not come across such a list for common preschool age word approximations. If you find one I’d love it if you would share it. Thanks for reading!

  8. Jenny, apraxia is assessed according to levels of motor development rather than phonological development (which is linguistic). If you look at her at from this perspective, it becomes relatively easy to develop word lists that are highly functional, yet are within her grasp motorically. They will be individualized to her, based on how her motor system functions. Look up the PROMPT institute, and try take one of their courses. They recently ran an online course of exactly what you are asking, but it will only make sense if you understand the motor hierarchy.

  9. My son will be 4 in two months. He has difficulty with the /s/ sound where he sticks his tongue between his teeth to try and say it. This is a step up. a few months ago he was dropping the sound altogether. now when I encourage him to put his tongue behind his teeth he struggles and can’t seem to leave enough space for air to gently escape making the sound. He also struggles with /c/ or /k/ as in cat or kite. he was dropping the sound until I started encouraging him to say it. He can in isolation, but gets confused and puts it at the end of the word, like at-/c/ for cat. /g/ is dropped as well. He just skips right over these letters. So, /ch/ is not there either. Should I try and focus on one sound at a time? I’m always correcting him and feel he’s very frustrated where I’m ready to just let him learn on his own….which I can’t really do b/c I’m homeschooling my children and this is my first year. Any advice will be helpful. Thanks so much. So glad to find the site. God bless you.

  10. Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for reading. My recommendation for your son would be to start with the /k/ sound. Given his age he is most likely to be successful with this sound first and since he can already say the sound in isolation it is a good place to start. Read over my post on how to teach the /k/ and /g/ sound and then print off the /k/ worksheets I have on my worksheets page to get started. If your son is getting frustrated with all the correcting let it go and just focus on the /k/ sound until he gets that. After he has mastered the /k/ sound move to the /g/ sound. After he has mastered the /g/sound try the /s/ or CH sounds again. I hope this helps. Let us know how it goes.

  11. Thank you, Heidi, for all of the work you put into this site! What a wonderful resource for us mamas! My 5.5 year old son struggles a ton with the “th” sound and I am loving your tips and worksheets. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  12. Thank you Aimee! I’m so glad your finding my site and worksheets useful. Good Luck!

  13. The Kauffman speech praxis cards and workbook shows appropriate approximations for several target words. It also shows a hierarchy of approximations. For example (and I don’t have the book right in front me) for potato it may start out “tay-o”, then “tay-doe”, finally “po-tay-doe”.

  14. Heidi,

    My son turned 4 couple of weeks ago. He replaces /s/ with ch most of the time and sometimes drops /s/ depending on where that letter is. Same with /sh/ sound too. He can not say /z/ either. Rest of the sounds are o.k, should I be concerned? Pls guide me

  15. Your son is still quite young. Do not be too concerned. It sounds like he is having a difficult time with sounds that require continues air flow like /s/, /z/ and SH. Start by blowing bubbles with him to get that continuous stream of air. Then have him feel the air on his hand as he blows out. Then try having him say the /t/ sound repetitively as quickly as he can. Have him hold his hand in front of his mouth to feel how the air stops in between the /t/ sounds. Then try having him say an /s/ sound following the /t/ sound. Tell him he should feel a continuous stream of air just like he did when he was blowing bubbles. Only this time the air is much softer. If this doesn’t work try some of the other tips I have on how to teach the /s/ and /z/ sounds in my post, “My Child Has a Lisp, Should I be Concerned?” Or you may also try the recommendations in “How to Teach the SH Sound.” I hope this helps!


  16. My 4 years old daughter struggles with “R” sound. CAn you please suggest how can i correct it. Thanks a lot.

  17. Hello Heidi:
    My daughter is 18 months old and understands a lot of words and phrases. I’m curious about vowel sounds and when they start developing. She uses a lot of words with sounds like “mama” and “up” and “down”, but no long “ee” sounds at all. Is this a sound that might develop later?

    Thank you!

  18. Thank you !!! I would try all these tips and update you.

  19. Erika,

    It may be that your daughter just hasn’t explored the long “ee” sound much yet. Start by modeling the sound as much as possible in your own speech. Say “Wheee” when you two are doing things that are fun like going down slides, or giving her piggyback rides. Give her a chance to imitate you and I’m sure she’ll be saying the sound before you know it.

  20. Struggling with the “R” sound at 4 years old is not uncommon. Your daughter has a good chance of correcting it on her own over the next couple of years. If however you are looking for some more information on how to teach the “R” sound I would suggest you read “Correcting the R Sound: A Primer for Parents” by Christine Ristuccia. Thanks for reading!

  21. Hi Heidi:

    My son is almost 5 (in a month and a half) and struggles with the /y/. He turns it into the /l/ sound. Yellow becomes Lellow, New Lork, Lo LO instead of Yoyo. Do you have any suggestions? I so appreciate your help. Thanks much,
    Alysia 🙂

  22. Alysia,

    Thanks for reading! For tips on teaching the Y sound I think you’ll find my post, “How to Teach the Y Sound” helpful.

  23. Hey ..thanks a lot for the great informative website. My 3 year old daughter is not able to do the /h/ sound..can u please put a post on how to teach the ‘h’ sound ?

  24. Diya,

    I will definitely get a post up on how to teach the /h/ sound as soon as I can. In the meantime try holding her hand in front of your mouth and let her feel the rapid release of air on her hand as you model the /h/ sound for her. Call it the “panting puppy” sound. Then have her try it. Have her put her hand in front of her mouth as she practices to feel that rapid release of air. With a little practice she should get it.

    Then after she can say the sound in repetition try adding a vowel to the sound for her to imitate. For example practice saying “Ho-ho-ho” like Santa or “Hee, hee, hee” like a witch on Halloween. Once she is able to do this try putting the sound on the front of words. You may use my worksheet for the /h/ sound found on the worksheets page. Good luck!


  25. I need reasurance or advice, I’m really not sure which. My daughter turned 3 years old in September, and while at her three year checkup I questioned the doctor about her begining sounds and she said she didn’t see anything wrong. She did however refer my daughter for a speech evaluation based on my concerns, she thought maybe it would ease my mind. She is now doing two- thirty minute sessions a week with a speech therapist. My daughter can pronounce all her sounds if they come towards the middle or the end of the word.

    She is not slow at all in other ways as she LOVES to learn, I have been able to teach her the entire alphabet upper and lowercase, as well as counting to 30, she knows all her shapes and colors and in the last two months she has been learning to write some of her shapes, letters and numbers (she asked me to show her how). She can spell some basic 3 letter words (MOM, DAD, DOG, AT, CAT, BAT etc.) Everyone tells me she is so smart yet I see her struggle with begining some of her words with the correct sound.

    The most difficult is the letter P. I can only get her to say P into a mirror (makes it fog) she will not begin a word with p (purple comes out urple, princess comes out incess) Yet if the word begins with a B, D, M, N, H, she can say it perfectly. The word Teeth comes out as eeth with the th coming out perfectly. P and T always are pronounced correctly if they come in the middle of a word or the end (Happy, Map, Hat, Bat), but she struggles with trying to get it at the begining of a word. The speech therapist told me she is having a problem with articulation and that she should be able to produce the begining sounds at this age, it seems as though she thinks I don’t work with her at all at home and now has me feeling like my daughter is much further behing than the pediatrician, friends, family and myself thought. All she has done so far at speech therapy is work with her on the K sound. That is why I am here, mother to mother how can I help my daughter please, I am trying so hard.

    I am also really shocked how there is so much difference between what the pediatrician and speech therapist think.

  26. Pam,

    Mother to mother I can assure you that your daughter is going to be fine. It sounds like she is very bright and you have obviously worked with her a lot. From your description is sounds like your daughter is deleting the initial consonants in words. This is a phonological process called initial consonant deletion. A phonological process describes a pattern of errors in speech. When I work with a child that deletes initial consonants or final consonants it is usually a matter of simply helping them become more aware that words have a beginning and an ending. In your daughters case I would likely start with the /p/ sound in the beginning of words. I would put the letter p on the table, talk about the sound it makes and then have her practice making the sound. Then I would place my initial p cards (you can get those on my worksheets page) to the right of the letter p on the table. I would then point to the letter p and have her say the /p/ sound and then point to the word card and have her say it. For example if the word card is pig and she says “ig” I point to the letter p have her say /p/ then point to the card and have her say “ig.” After multiple repetitions she will begin to get that she needs to put that sound on the beginning of the word. It also helps to explain to her that if she says “in” for pin or “ants” for pants it has a different meaning. This helps her understand why putting the sounds on the beginning of words is important.

    You may also want to read my post on How to Teach the P Sound for more helpful suggestions.

    Wishing you the best!


  27. Thank you for this article. I’m in the process of fighting to get my son speech therapy. When he was around 18 months they thought he might have a speech delay but by 2 he had a language explosion. Now at 2.5, he is talking up a storm but still has problems with M and N sounds. The M in particular sounds like a B (for example Mommy sounds like Bobby) it’s like he has a perpetual stuffy nose LOL But he can say S, R, and other sounds so I don’t get it. Fingers crossed the Regional Center will do their thing and get him sorted.

  28. It sounds like your son is having trouble with his nasal sounds. You may want to see an ENT for an evaluation as well to make sure he doesn’t have enlarged tonsils or adenoids that may be blocking his nasal passage making it difficult for him to make those sounds. Good luck!

  29. My 4 year old is very bright and I was considering starting to teach her sounds and beginning reading skills. My concern is that I don’t want to put more on her or expect more of her than she is able. My question is how much effort to I spend on trying to get sounds that might be further on developmentally to come out right, as I don’t want to “teach” her to say it wrong and effect her speech later. Two of her older sisters have mildly struggled with speech, so I’m wondering if I start a little earlier and spend some time on the sounds that it might be a little more proactive, but in the same way I don’t want to frustrate her, and cause her to not like learning because I’m expecting too much.

  30. Hi Carole,

    It is all about how you approach it. If you make it fun, and always encourage her for her efforts you can make a lot of progress at home. The most important thing to remember is to make sure she can say the sound correctly before you practice multiple repetitions of the sound. It is true that practicing the sound incorrectly over and over again could potentially make it more difficult to correct later. I hope this helps. 🙂

  31. Hello. I have a 2 and 1/2 year old who can’t say the K or G sounds at the start of words. Like Cat, Car etc or even his name which is Kalen. He says Tayen or Tar and Tat. He is fine with the sound at the end of words though.

    He has always dribbled a lot and has been using a straw for the past 6 months but that hasn’t seemed to help yet. (I think his 2 year old molars are still coming through as well). He has a habit of biting the straw.

    Is he too young for me to use a tongue depressor? Do you think he has mouth weakness or speech problem that I need him formally assessed for? His carers at creche are concerned he doesn’t open his mouth wide enough so he mumbles a lot too.

    Thanks Bron

    PS Love your site by the way.

  32. Hey there,

    I am taking the sheets on the /ch/ sound. My 6 year daughter struggles with this and the /j/ sound as in joke. Do you have tips on teaching this sound?

    I am so incredibly glad I found this site!


  33. Udana,

    The ch sound and j sound are very closely related. In fact the only difference between them is the addition of voice on the j sound. Read my post on “How to Teach the CH Sound” and then when you are ready to teach the j sound simply have your daughter “turn on” her voice. Do this by having her make a loud j sound. I often tell my students that while the ch sound is the sound of a train on the tracks the j sound is the sound of a jet engine taking off. I tell them they have to say the sound loudly in order to help that jet plane lift off into the air.

    Hopefully these suggestions will help you with your daughter.


  34. Hi Bronwyn,

    Your son’s substitution of the /t/ sound for the /k/ sound in the beginning of words is perfectly normal for his age. It is not until 3 years old that most kids have mastered this sound in the beginning words. Having said that now is a great time to start working with your son to say the sound correctly to help ensure he meets that milestone on time. He is not too young to try the tongue depressor either. Give it a shot and see how it goes. As to whether or not he has mouth weakness it is difficult to say without seeing him. If he is continually drooling though I would definitely have him assessed. Hope this helps!

  35. My 5 year old has been going to speech therapy for over a year now and though she was doing really well but she is doing letters at school and has recently started replacing the /s with a /th when I try and correct her and explain it to her she started getting confussed with everything then could u recommend anything I could do as she’s not bac at speech therapy until April


  36. Hi Sharon,

    Substituting the /s/ sound with the “th” sound is not uncommon for someone her age but of course is not a good habit to get into either. Try explaining that the /s/ sound is the sound a snake makes. Tell her to pretend her tongue is a snake when she makes the sound and that she needs to keep the snake in the “cage” (inside her teeth) when making the sound. If you find that she is still struggling and you need a few more ideas read my post, “My Child has a Lisp, Should I be Concerned?” This will hopefully give you a few more ideas you can try.

    Good luck!

  37. Hi,

    thankyou for such an informative website.
    our daughter will be 5yrs old in a couple of months. Her kindergarten teacher mentioned today about her not correctly pronunciating some words.
    We have noticed the letter F for eg as it Fiji she says as an H so sounds like Heji. our dogs name is Fudge she says hudge. she can say most F words ie: fruit & frog & flower as examples.
    The letter S word in some instances too, for example the word Sam she says ham, sock is hock, snail is tail but she can say alot of S words as in my name SHaron.
    It appears the kinder teacher went around the room and asked the kids to say the words only her & her little friend (both are of asian heritage) had trouble with the S.

  38. further update:
    today after reading your website articles
    we tested our nearly 5yr old daughter on the target sounds S & F
    in brackets is her respons

    AS (AD)
    ES (ED)
    OS (OD)
    US (UD)

    SA (HA)
    SE (HE)
    SI (HI)
    SU (HU)

    AF (AT)
    EF (ET)
    IF (IT)
    OF (OT)

    FA (HA)
    FO (HO)
    FU (WHO)

    Where do we start? and is there any particular exercise we can do with her to help her pronounce her S & f’S??
    tongue position etc??

  39. My four year old little boy is leaving out FLU at the start and middle of words. He is also struggling with the sound S ie…he will say wim instead of swim…. he is also changing FLU sounds to S at the end of words. Should i be concerned? Is this normal for his age? He has just turned 4. Thanks

  40. Hi Sharon,

    The /f/ and /s/ sounds have something in common. They are both fricatives, meaning they both require air flow to go through a constricted space. It is not uncommon for kids to substitute that sound with a sound that stops the airflow such as a /t/ or a /d/ sound like your daughter is doing at the end of her words. It is also not uncommon for her to begin the word with the h sound. In the initial position she just needs to learn to use continuous airflow through a constricted space.

    The good news is it sounds like your daughter is saying these sounds correctly in some words which should make it easy to teach. I would recommend you begin by teaching her how to say the /f/ sound since this sound is typically mastered at a younger age. Check out my post, “How to Teach the F and V Sounds” for tips on where to begin. After your daughter has mastered the /f/ sound then start working on the /s/ sound. You can find tips on how to teach the /s/ sound in my post, “My Child Has a Lisp, Should I be Concerned?” And no, I’m not saying your daughter has a lisp there are just some good tips in that post on how to teach the /s/ sound. I wish you the best!


  41. Thanks Heidi

    Since my initial post we have been practicing and have bought some of your articulation apps.

    The good news there has been lots of progress she is now producing the s & f ‘s and the beginning of her words, occasional slip ups and she says oops and tries again.

    Where she still has trouble is when there is a s & f in the same word.

    After listening very carefully to her speech we have also realized not all l or v are said correctly. The v comes out more like a f now
    And the l comes out as a w look as in wook
    Not all l’s or v’s come out like this though.

    Thank you so much for your help

  42. Heidi,

    I have two girls age 6 and 4. Both have articulation and phonological delays. My husbands side of the family has a history of speech issues (brothers, father,grandfather, cousins,etc). So my question is with the family history is this just simply an articulation and phonological issue or should I be asking about the possibility of apraxia? Or am I incorrect in that some of the other speech issues can be inherited?

  43. HI Sharon,

    I am so glad to hear Articulation Station has been a help for you and your daughter. I am happy that the /s/ and /f/ sounds are coming along. As I am sure you may have noticed the /v/ sound is very similar to the /f/ sound. The only difference in fact is the voice. You may want to first make sure she is hearing the difference in the sounds. You can do this with “minimal pairs” of f and v. For example, you may show her a picture of both a fan and a van. Ask her to point to the fan and then the van. You may also try a face and a vase and so on. This will teach her to listen carefully to the differences in the sounds. Then teach her that the /v/ sound is a loud sound made with the voice on while the /f/ sound is a quiet sound made with the voice off. You may be interested in reading my post, “How to Teach the F and V Sounds.”

    Once she has mastered the /f/ sound then I would start working on the /l/ sound. Check out my post, “How to Teach the L Sound.” You can also find great tips in the “Quick Tips” in the individual sound programs within Articulation Station.

    All the best,

  44. Hi Jenna,

    Delays in speech and language acquisition can run in families. A history of speech delay in the family is not an indication of apraxia. If you are concerned that your girls might have apraxia I would definitely have them assessed by a speech pathologist. If they do in fact have apraxia they may require a different treatment model than a typical articulation or phonological treatment procedure. Hope this helps!


  45. I was searching how speech therapy works when I came across this site .. I have a 26 month old son who only says maaaa, baaa , daaaa and paaa. We went for an evaluation and he quailfied for speech therapy almost a month and a hlf ago but we are still waiting for an opening to start his therapy.
    Before visiting your site , i was skeptical if i could do anything for my son while waiting but your site helped a lot in giving me a confidence that i can be of help for my munchkin . Any thoughts where and how I should start working with him .

  46. My 5 year old replaces th with an f sound. For example she will say Fank you or bad instead of thank you and bath. Should I be concerned? Thanks!

  47. Sorry, I meant baf instead of bath. Or fifteen instead of thirteen.

  48. Hi Heidi,
    Very interesting! My 5y/o dd, tomorrow, started speech therapy at the age of 18mns when she didn’t make any sounds or words and only signed a few words. She had been in pt for 1/2 a yr before that. She has acute hypotonia and was diagnosed w/ speech apraxia as well several other things. She was discharged from speech therapy last year right before she turned 4y/o b/c from the evaluations she no longer was covered under insurance and though I and the speech pathologist knew she could use more help in speaking neither of us could do anything about it.
    Reading this makes me a bit upset to see that she probably shouldn’t have been evaluated by what the “average” kid can say/pronounce and should have been given more help. I have done the best I can w/ her at home this past year, but I am no speech pathologist! We are working to get her reevaluated before she enters K5 this coming school year.
    Thanks for writing this, it was very interesting and helpful to read! 🙂
    Mama 🙂

  49. My Son just turned 4, and he does not say the /th/ sound. He usually replaces it with the /f/ sound. I make the sound for him and ask if he can hear the difference and he say that he can’t. I don’t think anything is wrong with his hearing. Thanks

  50. Hi Julie,

    Did you mean your four year old is leaving out the /l/ sound? Or the /fl/ blend? You also mentioned he is having trouble with the /s/ sound. There is no need to worry. The /l/ and /s/ sounds are not typically mastered until kids are around 5 years old. However, now would be a very good time to start encouraging him at home to start saying them correctly. If the only problem your son is having with the /s/ sound is simplifying or leaving it out of blends like the /sw/ blend that is no big deal. He will likely start correcting that on his own within the next year. If he doesn’t just sit down and see if you can get him to say the /sw/ blend together in isolation (all by itself). If he can have him practice a set of /sw/ words every day until he gets it. Some good words to start with are swim, swing, sweater, sweets, swan and swamp.

    For some ideas on how to teach the /l/ sound in the beginning, middle and end of words you can read my post, How to Teach the L Sound.

    Best of luck!

  51. Hi Rita,

    I have written a few posts on ways to encourage more communication in toddlers. Take a look at them for some ideas on how and where to start with your son. The posts I recommend you read include “Using Turn Taking and Imitation to Encourage Communication,” “Eight Ways to get your Child to Speak,” “Reading with your Toddler,” “Bubbles to Improve Language Development,” and “Sign Language with your Infant and Toddler.”

    Best of luck!

  52. Hi Tricia,

    There is no need to be alarmed. This is very normal. The majority of kids don’t typically have this sound mastered until about the age of 7. However, by 5 years old I start to work on the correct production of the th sound so that it isn’t a problem later. The great thing about the th sound is it is a very easy sound to teach. Check out my post, “How to Teach the th Sound” for some tips.

    All the best!

  53. Hi Tasha,

    It is perfectly normal for a 4 year old to struggle with the th sound. It is also not surprising that he says he can’t “hear” the difference. Don’t be upset by this I am sure there is nothing wrong with his hearing. If you really want to know if he can indeed hear the difference in the sounds you can do a little exercise where you present him with what are called “minimal pairs.” Minimal pairs are two pictures of words presented together that differ only in one phoneme. For example, “that” and “fat” or “three” and “free” or “thread” and “Fred.” When you show him the minimal pair, “thread” and “Fred” for example, ask him to point to “thread.” If he points to thread correctly, great, then ask him to point to Fred. If he identifies either of them incorrectly explain how important it is to listen carefully to how the different sounds you say in words change the meaning of the word. Ask him to listen carefully again. Point to your mouth when you say “Fred” and then point to the picture, explaining that that is Fred. Then do the same when you say, “thread.” Then test him again now that you have taught him to pay attention to the small difference in the word.

    Doing this little exercise will help you determine if he truly can or cannot hear the difference between the two sounds. It is more likely that he just hasn’t paid attention to the differences in the sounds yet.

    Hope this helps!

  54. Hello I just came across this as my son has finally had a speech therapy assessment aged 3 years and 4 months. I have had concerns about his speech since he was 2. I’m not really sure exactly what problems he has, they are quite severe but I was told there doesn’t seem to be a real pattern which is quite confusing. He can say most sounds in isolation except th, qu and g. He repeats others back fine but the sound is always lost within words. He produces a good amount of speech, talks in long sentences of up to 15 words but to most people it is gobbledygook. I can understand most of what he says. He says a few words very clearly like mum/mummy,dad/daddy, why, no, not, yeh but most words he either loses the first sound or changes it and loses the last sound. The middle of words can sometimes be wrong but usually have the right tone if you know what I mean? I have been told he will need one on one therapy but it’s a waiting game again. I am so concerned that he may never have normal speech. I have done everything with him as I have with my 6 year old daughter and her speech has always been above average. I just don’t know what more I can do. Please help!

  55. Hi Rebecca,

    What you are describing is not uncommon. I am sure there are many moms out there reading your comment thinking… “That sounds just like my son.” Don’t be concerned, your speech language pathologist will help you set up a treatment plan that will outline specific goals and steps that will help your son reach the ultimate goal of clear speech.

    While you are waiting you can start practicing some of the earlier developing sounds at home. I would recommend starting with the /p/ sound in the initial position of words. It is a fun sound to work on and typically an easy sound for kids to get. You can read my post, “How to Teach the P Sound” for some direction on how to get started. You may then use the /p/ worksheets on the Worksheets page or you can download “Articulation Station” for free on the iPad. It comes with the P program loaded on it in 6 super fun interactive activities. Your son will love it!

    Best of luck!

  56. Hi,
    I am glad I found this chart, but I am having trouble understanding it. What does the initial, medial, and final columns mean?

    I have a 3 year old. His doctor seemed fine with him not pronouncing all of his letters, though really, she didn’t get him to talk much. At a meeting with his preschool he will be starting, the director suggested we get him evaluated since she couldn’t understand a lot of what he was saying. I am trying to figure out what the norm is for his age.

    He can’t pronounce f, r, w ….off the top of my head. Sometimes, we can’t understand him, and he gets frustrated that I have him repeat himself.

    Do I trust that this is just his pace of development, or do I have him evaluated? Do I go through his primary doctor to get a referral? I have no clue about the process for this.

    Thank you,

  57. Hi Jamie,

    First of all, the column for initial represents the norm for when kids have mastered the sound in the beginning of words. The column for medial represents the norm for when kids have mastered the sound in the middle of words. The column for final represents the norm for when kids have mastered the sound at the end of words.

    By three years old an unfamiliar adult should be able to understand at least half of what he says. By four years old an unfamiliar adult should be able to understand everything even if articulation errors are still present. If the preschool director had a difficult time understanding most of what he said, than I agree, he should be evaluated.

    He should be eligible for a free evaluation from the local school district. By law the government is responsible for speech and language services for 3 and older in most states. Call the district office of your local school district and request a speech evaluation.

    I hope this helped.

    All the best,

  58. Hi
    I have a little boy who turned 4 a couple of months ago and when I picked him up from preschool yesterday the teacher said that the speech pathologist screened the children and noted that she wanted to work with my son.

    The teacher stated that when saying s they come out as a f (swim is fwim), c are t (cat is tat) and his g are d (go is do).

  59. Sorry for some reason the first part posted already

    His teacher was surprised by this because she said you can understand everything that he says. I guess I thought that most little kids mispronounce words and they outgrow it and I was surprised that they labeled it as a lisp. Should I be more concerned? Everytime he has went for a well baby check they were actually shocked at his speech and how well he spoke and his vocabulary because he spoke at a very young age.

    Thank you

  60. Hi Denise,

    You are right, mispronouncing sounds is part of normal development. The trick is knowing when the mispronunciations are normal and when they are considered delayed. For example, The /k/ and /g/ sounds are typically mastered by 90 % of kids by the age of 3 so if your son is not yet saying those sounds a little help from the Speech Pathologist just may give him the boost he needs. The /s/ sound however is not typically mastered until the age of 5 so you have a little more time on that sound.

    Just a quick note, substituting the /s/ sound with an /f/ sound is not considered a lisp.

    I hope this helps.

    All the best,

  61. Hi there,

    My daughter will be 3 in a few weeks and after overcoming a speech delay I’m now a little concerned about her articulation. We got her help for a speech delay at around 2, and shortly after she had a huge speech explosion and talks all the time now with a huge vocabulary. I understand 90-100% of what she says, but non-family probably only catch about 50-60%.
    Primarily I’m concerned because she drops the consonant from the ends of some words (or it’s quiet and hard to hear) and does not articulate medial /n/ and medial /t/ well. Sometimes she uses /g/ instead of initial /d/.
    Just wondering if, in your opinion, this is something I can work with her on at home (I stay at home with her) or if we need to seek professional intervention now. I was planning on having her evaluated by the the school district when she’s 3.5.

    PS. We’ve just downloaded the Articulation Station app and have really enjoyed it.

  62. I just came upon your site while searching for resources to help me better understand a concern that has been identified with my 1st grader (who will be 7 years old in 2 months time).

    According to our school’s Speech Pathologist, she has an “absent R”. The school also tells me this could be “developmentally normal” until age 8, 9, or 10. I can’t seem to find anything that suggests an absent R is not something that should concern me at this point. It’s really nagging at me, and my instincts won’t let me “shrug it off”.

    Is there a national organization which develops guidelines speech professionals should strive to follow? Perhaps I could find more answers if I knew who makes the rules.



  63. Hi Lauren,

    I apologize for the late reply. My life got a little backed up for awhile. I hope you have had a chance to work with your daughter at home these past few months. I would have definitely suggested you do that. You mentioned she is leaving her sounds off at the end of words. This is a phonological process called final consonant deletion which is appropriate for kids to do until about 3 years 3 months. So if she is still having troubles with this one at 3 1/2 taking her in for that school evaluation will be a good idea.

    Deciding where I would start home practice would depend on your daughter. You mentioned you have Articulation Station. I want you to try working on the p sound in the final position of words and the n sound in the medial position of words. Then start with the sound she has the most success with. If she does well with p at the end of words try working on more final sounds like b, and m. Then once she has mastered 2 or 3 final sounds try mixing them up in the multiple sounds activity to make sure she can still remember to add that final sound in. If she had more success with the medial n sound target that sound first in the medial position of words. After she has mastered the n in words, sentences and stories I would start working on the medial t and finally target the initial g sound.

    These are just a few ideas for home practice. Hopefully you’ve already been practicing.

    Wishing you the most success!

  64. Hi Wendy,

    Speech pathologists use speech sound norms to help them determine if a sound error is developmentally appropriate or if it is delayed. The flaw in this system is that every set of speech sound norms that have been released seems to have different results then previously released speech norms. As a result speech pathologists end up with a window of when kids typically master the sounds. The R sound for example can be anywhere from 6-8 years old. Because of this school districts can’t usually justify bringing kids in for R therapy before the age of 8. If you are concerned and would like to get your daughter some help sooner I would recommend you contact a private speech pathologist.

    Practicing Speech Pathologists and Audiologists belong to a national organization called the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). ASHA does provide practice policies you could look over but they aren’t very specific.

    I hope this helps!

  65. I am glad to find your website.My son will be 4 after two months.he is hyperactive.Doctor said him ADHD .Now he is pointing at apple & orange & say ‘appe’ and ‘ora’ only .Should i teach him words ‘b’ ‘m’ ? I had done occupational therapy because of his hyperactivity.Speech therapy is not done yet.Actually he has adenoid problem also,so is this interrupting his speech?
    Please help me because i am in jubail (saudi Arabia) & no speech therapist practice here.I am going back to India for one or two months but can’t live there forever.your suggestion will be very helpful to me.God bless you.

  66. My 2.5 year old son is all over the place with his speech. He has been able to say the /d/ sound since 9 months or so. At around 12 months, he lost some words and sounds (he could say his name and ball and mama). He’s finally saying mama sometimes (often nana instead; also says “nore” for “more” frequently) and he says “dall” for “ball.”

    However, he can say “boo” correctly. He also says “cheese” and “keys” clearly as well as “Paul.” In the past, he’s clearly said complete sentences (“I didn’t do it”) and difficult words (i.e., “dinosaur) so that others could understand, but then he’ll say the word once, and never say it again or “lose it” (he used to say “green” all the time, but now the only color he says is “blue”). He’s also fairly inconsistent (sometimes he’ll say “baby” and sometimes it’s “baba” or “bobo” instead).

    He was late cooing and babbling, and he rarely imitates, though he’s finally starting to imitate sometimes. Mostly, though, if you ask him to say a word, he just stomps his foot or jumps (not in an angry way at all, but almost in a “this is too much pressure” way).

    Should I be worried? Do you have any suggestions for working with him? We’re both beginning to be frustated when I can’t understand what he wants. He seems to be learning more words now, but he’s still “losing” some in the process.


  67. P.S. – It’s not a comprehension issue. He can follow 2-3 part instructions with ease, and sometimes I hear him say words when I’m not around like he’s practicing, but them he doesn’t use them.


  68. Hi, This website is quite helpful…my daughter just turned 5 and she has trouble it seems blending “gr” words it seems…is that normal? Will it correct itself? For example, for green she will say breen, from what it sounds like she is putting a “B” in front of the gr words…that seems to be the only thing she has trouble with…should I be concerned? Thanks

  69. Hello,
    I came across this website when looking for some help and advice for my 4/5 year old son. He’s a July born baby for so one of the youngest in his class (Reception).
    His teacher has raised concerns over his miss-use of letters in words, but more so the fact that he does not pronounce letters ‘s’ and ‘f’
    He’s always had some pronunciation issues from a young age as he sucks his tongue but we assumed he would grow out of this as he got older (which he hasn’t). We’ve had tests done for speech & language and hearing when he turned 3 and all the therapists have reported that all seems ok – and his speech would develop with time.

    We’re just a little unsure now as the school has also raised concerns. Any all feedback/input would be appreciated

    Thank you

  70. Hi,

    I am diosyl, mom from the Philippines. I have a son which is currently 1 yr and 4 months. His pedia recommend that he needs to be assessed because the only words he can say is mama. Can you please give me info how can have an early intervention for him?

  71. Hi Diosyl,

    It sounds like you need to contact a speech language pathologist in your area. Most areas have an Early Intervention Program where you can take your child and have them evaluated by an SLP. If your pediatrician recommended that he be evaluated he should be able to give you some information on where to go. Good luck! Once you do have him evaluated and the SLP tells you what to work on, you will be able to find multiple resources here on the blog to help you. Let us know if you have any other questions.

  72. Hi Sandip,

    If the school is raising concerns, they should have a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) there that can evaluate him. We also have an articulation screener here on the blog you can use to do a quick evaluation yourself to see if the sounds he is having trouble with are typical for his age or not. Good luck and let us know if we can answer any further questions for you.

  73. Hi Wendi,

    Struggling with /r/ blends at age 5 is very common. If that is her only speech error I would not be very concerned. Just make sure to provide the correct model for her as many times as possible after she says it incorrectly. For example, if she said “I want the breen one” you would say, “oh you want the GReen one? Ok, I will get you the GReen one. GReen is such a pretty color! I like the GReen one too!” After doing this for awhile you can start asking her to try to say it the correct way. Let her look at your mouth and explain to her what you are doing with your tongue.

    Good luck!

  74. Hi Renee,

    I have found that a mother’s instinct is usually right. If you are concerned with what you are noticing in his speech patterns I would take him to Early Intervention in your area and have him evaluated. They will be able to let you know if he is on track with other kids his age or not. And if he is not they will be able to provide the services he needs to help him. By 2.5 years old he should have about 100 words that he uses pretty consistently and be putting together 2-3 word phrases consistently as well. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Early Intervention really works and is probably your best bet in this situation.

    Good luck.

  75. Hi Moiza,

    Yes, adenoid problems can cause speech problems. This is something you should talk to his doctor about. It sounds like he is leaving off the ends of words. This is called “Final Consonant Deletion”, So yes, you would want to start working on the earlier developing sounds /b,p,m/ at the end of words. You can find worksheets with words to practice with him in the “worksheets” section of this blog. Start with short CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words like Mop, Top, hop and go from there. Sit down and play a game with him and have him say the word 5 times before he gets to take his turn. And then you say the word 5 times before you take your turn. If you have other kids they can play as well saying the word as well. The more good models he hears the better.
    Good luck!

  76. hello, i found your website very useful and helpful. thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and profession about speech therapy. I am from Philippines, i have a 3.8 yrs old daughter. i brought her to a developmental pediatrician and according to her evaluation, my child have expressive language delay. She advised to see a speech therapist for evaluation. my child have trouble using connecting words to make it understood, at her age she still using 2 or 3 words when communicating for ex., if she want to eat yogurt she will say ”mommy yogurt” . She is already going to preschool, at school she is very quite and seldom talk to other children maybe because she cannot communicate well. She uses screaming or shouting most of the time especially when she is at home. She can imitate you but if she talk naturally she is still using the same 2 or 3 words. She is also like a parrot even if you ask her ‘you want to eat?’ she will also say ”you want to eat?” she dont know how to ask question and to answer question.. would pls. give me some tips on how to let her ask and aswer question? im planning to contact a speech therapist ,but it takes time because in my town where i live , we have only 1 speech therapist and she have lots of patient waiting…hope you will give me some advise. thank you very much. 🙂

  77. Hi, my 6 1/2 year old has always been an excellent speaker but I’ve always noticed that she doesn’t place her tongue correctly with the letters s,z,d,l,t,n,Ce. Where I think her tongue should be behind her teeth she places it between her teeth. I’ve raised it with her teachers since pre-School and none of them had ever picked up on it or thought there was anything wrong with her speech. Is this normal for a child of this age and am I just being paranoid? I went to a speech therapist for about 5 years when I was in primary school because of a lisp so I don’t know if I’m looking in to it too much.

  78. Hello, My son is almost 5 and I have noticed he has trouble mostly with initial blends. For example, he will say sills instead of spills, cabs instead of crabs. It seems if it is a two consonant blend at the beginning he has trouble. He can say it if broken down but can’t seem to blend it fluently in conversation. This is only at the beginning of words. Also the l sounds more like a y sound, the k sounds more like a t, and z sounds like a v. I am very concerned because several words are hard to understand because he omits the second sound of the blend at the beginning. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you for your time!

  79. Hi,

    I’m a primary school teacher.

    What could it mean if a child is saying ‘f’ for ‘th’ at the age of 8.5 years old? He also mixes up plurals – verbalizes plurals when they aren’t needed. Not all of the time but he struggles to correct and needs a few goes at repeating a sentence until it is right.

    I suspect he has CAPD for many other reasons but would the issues listed also fit into CAPD?

    Thank you.

  80. Hi Melanie,
    I’m glad to hear that you are planning on contacting a speech therapist for evaluation. They will be able to give you specific helps and hopefully provide some intervention to help address your child’s expressive language delay. In the meantime there are some general things you can do to help encourage expressive language. It may seem like common sense, but talking to your child and exposing them to language is very important. Talk when you’re in the car, talk when you’re at the grocery store, talk while you’re making dinner, sing songs etc. That exposure to language will help in encouraging your child’s expressive language. Reading to your child is also very important. You don’t have to finish a whole book, but look for age-appropriate board or picture books that encourage your child to look at the book while you name the pictures. You can ask questions while you read like asking your child “what will happen next?” Reading will help create a language rich environment in your home. Finally, As you’re doing activities with your child, talk about what you’re doing as you do it and “think” out loud asking and answering your own questions “Where does this piece go?” “Oh, it goes right here.” This type of modeling will help show demonstrate to your child how to ask and answer questions. Good luck and I wish you the best!

  81. Hi Lizzy,
    From the information that you shared it sounds like your child may have articulation concerns. You’re right in that those sounds you listed are usually made with the tongue behind the teeth instead of between the teeth. By age 6 errors made with these sounds in speech are no longer age-appropriate and should be said correctly. I would suggest getting in touch with the school’s speech pathologist to have them evaluate your student. Good luck!

  82. Hi Valerie,

    Sorry for the delay in response. It sounds like your son has some articulation errors that could be helped with some speech therapy. You are doing the right thing by breaking down the blends so that he can hear the different consonant sounds being blended and then practice saying them slowly to make sure he is saying each consonant sound. Have him practice this way until he is able to say the word correctly with the blend at a rate that’s a little more closer to what his regular speaking rate is, then challenge him by having him say the word in a phrase. Once he can do that with ease, have him use the word in a sentence. As he gets more comfortable saying the word correctly in these limited contexts you can encourage him to carryover the word while he reads, or while he’s speaking, but starting out slow and repeating and practicing in the short context of a word, phrase, and sentence will help him create muscle memory and improve his accuracy for saying the word correctly and carrying it over into his speech. With the l, k, and z sounds, k is usually a sound that develops in children around the age of 3-4. Check out our suggestions on how to teach some of these sounds: here and here. Good luck!

  83. Hi Claire,
    Sorry for the delay in response. Central auditory processing disorder, or CAPD is a complex problem that can have various signs/symptoms. Children suspected of having CAPD can present with a variety of listening and related complaints. For example, they may have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, following directions, and discriminating between similar-sounding speech sounds, like f and th. Sometimes they may behave as if a hearing loss is present, often asking for repetition or clarification. In school, children with CAPD may have difficulty with spelling, reading, and understanding information presented verbally in the classroom. However, it is important to understand that these same types of symptoms may be apparent in children who do not have CAPD. The child you’re referring to may just have an articulation issue with pronouncing f and th. Therefore, we should always keep in mind that not all language and learning problems are due to CAPD. You said that you suspect CAPD for many other reasons–if you feel these concerns need to be brought to the parents attention also recommend that they consult an audiologist to determine if it is CAPD. Though SLPs can help treat CAPD, an audiologist would need to be the one to diagnose it.

  84. Your website has been so helpful for me. I have 2 sons with hearing loss so we’ve been dealing with speech and language issues. I have a question about my 8mo old. He only babbles dadada and tatata, no other consonants. My older son also did the same. Their speech therapist says it’s’ not normal but couldn’t really explain what the cause could be. Should I be concerned about processing delays or some other disorder?

  85. Hello,
    Heidi….. you are doing such a great job…..its much useful for therapy. Especially the worksheets.

  86. Hi Irene,
    At 8 months of age, it’s fairly normal for a baby to be babbling long strings of consonants together. This is how babies develop their verbal skills, and eventually connect that their syllables have meaning. The fact that neither of your sons use other consonants is a little strange. Did your older son eventually say other consonant sounds? Are you currently seeing an audiologist to help address their hearing loss? Even before babies can talk, they communicate through gestures — pointing, shaking their head “no,” and waving bye-bye all demonstrate their ability to communicate, understand, and respond to language. Make sure you continue to provide a language rich environment for your sons–talk to them, play verbal games, label objects in their environment, read, sing, etc. When it comes to language development and processing there is a wide range of development for babies and toddlers. The hearing loss aspect can definitely lead to processing and language disorders, but as long as you are doing all you can at home and working closely with an audiologist (who would help diagnose any auditory processing disorders and provide service for the hearing loss aspect) and your SLP (who would help with diagnosis of auditory and language processing disorders, as well as developmental delays) you should be in good hands with a good competent team of experts to help you with your sons’ development. Good luck!

  87. Hi!
    ThanKS so much for this post..I’ve been working a lot with my 2 year old (28 months). I’ve been concerned with her speech for some time now..she probably consistently says around 50 worst that are easy to recognize..is it normAL for her to substitute d for b? She says baa for sheep and other b words some and can say daddy and most d words well but says die instead of bye..talking does not seem to come easy for her..she can say outside but it’s more like out…….side. it was only about 2 month ago that she actually started to try to imitate words you ask her to..beforr then she wouldn’t try to say ANYTHING you asked her to..so she’s really improved a lot since then but she’s still behind.

  88. Hi Brandy.

    When kids are first learning to speak it is typical for them to make all kinds of substitutions. It sounds like even though she is 28 months old she only just began speaking a couple of months ago. While she is on the later end of development it is good to hear that she is beginning to imitate new words. At this point she should start acquiring new vocabulary rapidly. And you should see her articulation start to improve as well. If over the next few months her language development continues at a very slow pace and her articulation does not seem to improve much I would recommend you have her evaluated by your local early intervention program for more counsel and guidance on helping her become a successful communicator.

    All the best!