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When should my child be talking clearly?

This is a great question to ask! I have noticed that some families expect their children to be fully intelligible by 2 years of age! It's absolutely okay if you don't understand your child all the time when they are only two. They are still developing their speech sound skills.



What is intelligibility? It is basically how clear your child is and how much of it you can understand. Generally speaking, children's intelligibility develop at this rate:

  • 2 years: 50% intelligible to strangers

  • 3 years: 75% intelligible to strangers

  • 4 years: 100% intelligible to strangers

AND

  • 18 months: 25% intelligible to parents

  • 2 years: 50-75% intelligible to parents

  • 3 years: 75-100% intelligible to parents

You will have noticed that when it comes to parents, we expect them to understand more of their child's speech. What a surprise! The data is above is from Flipsen (2006) and Lynch, Brookshire & Fox (1980).


*Update November 2022*

Based on some new norms that came out in 2021, the numbers actually look a little different now!

The milestones (95% of children achieve this task at certain ages) for speech intelligibility are as follows:

  • 50% intelligible to strangers at 4 years

  • 75 intelligible to strangers at 5 years

  • 90% intelligible to strangers a little past 7 years.


The information above was based on this paper.


But what does this mean for us as parents?

Children are not expected to speak as clearly as early as we once thought. However, if you ever have concerns that your child has a speech delay, you can always seek help from a speech therapist. We are private speech therapists that provide speech therapy services to children in Vancouver, Richmond, and Burnaby. We also support children virtually anywhere in BC. Get in touch!


However, intelligibility is just one factor, we also have speech norms or at what age we expect children to have acquired certain speech sounds.


Based on Crowe & McLeod (2020), we expect 90% of children to have acquired these speech sounds at these ages in the United States:

  • 2 years: p, b, d, m, n, h, w

  • 3 years: t, k, g, ng, f, j (the y sound in yes)

  • 4 years: v, s, z, sh, l, ch, dz (g in George)

  • 5 years: th (the), zh, r

  • 6 years: th (thumb)

This is just a snapshot of children's speech sound development. In reality, when you see a speech-language pathologist, they are able to take multiple factors into account in the assessment and make a tailored treatment plan that fits the needs of your child. This is a good starting point to decide if you should be concerned.


This reminders are just tips to be aware of as you monitor your child's speech development. If you have any concerns about your child's speech development, you can always complete a speech-language assessment. This assessment thoroughly assesses your child's speech sounds skills and a diagnostic statement can be made regarding whether they have a speech sound challenge and what type of challenge. You can also learn more about treatment and HOW children process through speech therapy to speak clearly.


If you are looking for a speech therapist in Vancouver, Richmond or Burnaby to provide in-person speech therapy services, you're at the right place. Contact us here! Additionally, we provide virtual speech therapy services to children in BC so you can receive timely speech therapy services even if you live in remote areas!