What is normal? Normal speech intelligibility development for ages one through three

From time to time we get questions about what sounds a toddler or early preschool-aged child should have mastered?  Should my child have their R sound at 3?  Should my child be able to say "SHHH" at 2?  

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It is important to remember that every child is different and every child develops at a various rate.  The information in this post is meant to be helpful for parents but the only way to know what is 'normal' for your child is to receive a full speech-language evaluation from a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist.  The charts cited below are for typically developing children.

Most Speech-Language Pathologists decipher what sounds a child should have by our formal tests which have been normed on large groups of children at various age ranges.   The frustrating part for us, as Speech-Language Pathologists, is that depending on who is doing the research and testing, these norms can vary greatly!  

Here is a graphic made by Big Sky Therapy associates which was pulled from a formal articulation test (The Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation 3).  This test, or a variation of it, is often used by a Speech-Language Pathologist during assessment of your child.  The chart linked above divides the age of mastery for sounds by male/female, age and by percentage of how much you should understand your child.  It is important to remember that you may understand your child A LOT more than strangers, teachers or grandparents.

This chart, from TalkingChild.com, also divides when children gain certain sounds by age and gender.  This chart was linked to the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association's website. (The national association for Speech-Language Pathologists).

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Our take

As both moms and Speech-Language Pathologists, we've seen and heard our own children gain new speech sounds with development.  Our expressive language techniques handout lists the following sounds as 'beginning sounds':  p, b, m, n, d, t, and w.  You'll notice that most of these sounds use both of the lips (known as bilabial sounds) which is what our children can see when we talk to them.  We encourage parents to let their children see them when they're reading to them and talking to them so children can both hear and see speech while it is being produced.  This aids in children picking up on new sounds and mouth movements.  

Finally, single consonants such as listed above come before later developing sounds such as sh, z, clusters (gr, gl, tr, fl, etc), r and l. 

If you have more questions, please feel free to reach out at toddlertalkingtt@gmail.com.