by Sarah Michaels, Heather Miller, Phyllis Norwood, Heather Petrusa and Amy Samuels (CHCCS SLP Pre-K Team)
The production of speech is an amazingly complex process. Speaking involves 3 systems: the respiratory system (lungs), the laryngeal system (vocal cords), and the articulatory system (tongue, lips, teeth, nose). Speech begins as a thought and then with the help of a perfectly timed sequence of all three systems, sounds are produced. Our lungs provide air that enters the larynx for voicing and then travels up to the articulatory system where changes in the mouth shape produce the actual sounds.
In the English language, we make over 40 individual speech sounds, including both vowels and consonants. Each sound varies by place in the mouth (e.g., lips, behind teeth, soft palate), voice (voiced or unvoiced), and manner in which it’s produced (e.g., continued air, stopped sound, nasal sound).
Given this complex system, it is understandable that many children experience difficulties with sound production as their speaking develops. There is much variability regarding when speech sounds are acquired. Below is a link to a chart that shows when speech sounds typically develop in most children. Ninety percent of children produce the sounds within the age band by the indicated ages. A disorder exists if a child hasn’t acquired a given sound one year beyond the expected age listed. If you are concerned that a student is not able to produce age appropriate sounds, then follow up with a Speech-Language Pathologist.