Developing your child's speech clarity
Small children can be tricky to understand! It's normal for you to struggle to understand some things your 2 year old says. Hopefully you understand most of what your three or four year old says - even if the sounds aren't quite right, you should normally be able to 'get the gist'.
Of course as parents, we understand our children better than those who see them less often. That's normal too!
Speech sounds develop at different stages and your child will probably continue to be struggling with some sounds e.g. sh, j, ch, z, r, v and th even after they've started school. Teachers work on 'th' lots in years 2-4 at school!
Research tells us that children vary in the ages they get sounds but most will follow a similar order. Some children will develop what we consider late sounds really early though, especially if they're motivating for them e.g I worked with a little girl called Thea, and she had th clearly before she was 3! It's hard not to compare your child to others but you're better at looking at them as an individual when working out how they're doing. If your child was premature it's also important to remember that we expect them to be a bit delayed with their language acquisition and your paediatrician and health visitor should be helping you understand how your child is doing.
This chart gives you an idea about when your child might say each of the sounds we use:
For very young children (under 3) we don't worry too much about sound clarity, particularly if they don't have many words yet. As a parent, there are simple things that you can do though to help your toddler:
Talking slowly, and clearly yourself is key. It's normal for a two year old to miss the sounds off the ends of words too, listen out for it and if they do, think about how clearly you say these end sounds in your talking.
Get a hearing test...if you don't think the images in this Blog or the ages match your child, talk to your GP about getting a hearing test. Children who pass their newborn screen can still get glue ear, which may impact on the sounds they hear and therefore say. It's always worth checking for peace of mind!
If you're concerned, you can also talk to your health visitor, nursery staff or surestart children's centre staff. They're used to screening speech and language and see lots more young children than you so they can advise if your child seems to be talking typically for their age. They can also make a referral to the speech and language therapy service for you.
If you're still really worried and not getting anywhere, ring your local speech therapy team yourself. Most will accept parent referrals if they feel it's appropriate after asking you a few questions. Your local independent speech therapists will probably give you free advice over the phone too; we do at Learn to Communicate. Speech therapists want the best for you and your child...we're nice like that!
Lastly, here's some game ideas to practise speech sounds from the brilliant Speechbloguk. Thank you ladies!: