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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).


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.


As always, if you are concerned about your child's speech development, book a consultation with your local speech-language pathologist. It's always good to rule out concerns or start treatment early!


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