With three young children at various stages of development my wife and I easily forget what milestones each kid should be hitting. Our oldest son was a late “talker” while our middle child is an early one and our youngest is a “solid” babbler (he’s just a few months old) and seems to have a lot to say.
The chart above shows what the normal range of mastery is for particular phonemes in the English language. In a nutshell, phonemes are individual unit sounds needed to consistently and completely pronounce a word (morpheme) in a given language. An example the “zh” sound in the middle of the word “mea s ure”is considered a phoneme.
Studies show that a lot of these speech and articulation milestones have a fair amount of wiggle room to them. It should also be pointed out that boys develop language slow than girls, but by 8 years old both boys and girls (even late talkers) are able to form all the major (and minor) phonemes. A study of 1,766 toddlers, the researchers found that boys are three times as likely as girls to be late-talking toddlers, but by age 7, the differences disappeared. Obviously, some kind of mechanism kicks in for the boys.
I can speak from experience that this “wiggle room” creates a bit of concern for those of us with late talkers because there is a “wait and see” aspect to the problem. As a parent, you want to keep a keen eye on milestones and learn the facts.
[Speech] Delay vs. Disorder A child is said to have an articulation delay when the sounds are acquired in the expected sequence but the developmental errors persist beyond the age we expect (e.g. when a four year old continues to say “tar” for car or “nake” for snake). A child is said to have an articulation disorder when their error patterns and/or sound acquisition sequence deviate from those seen in most children their age. A phonological disorder occurs when error patterns are more severe and affect an entire group of sounds with similar characteristics. In all cases, a referral to a Speech Language Pathologist is indicated.
A referral is indicated in the presence of the following:
Limited production of consonant sounds by two years.
Poor sound imitation skills or lack of interest in speech by two years.
Child lacks interest in shared or reciprocal play by their first birthday.
Difficulty understanding a child’s speech beyond the third birthday.
Child has unusual or atypical error patterns in his/her speech
Child has typical error patterns but they persist beyond the expected age
A child has not mastered all sounds by the end of their sixth year. [*courtesy Lowry Speech Therapy ]
Since there is a spectrum of reasons why your child’s language may be blooming later than others, we have found a number of games and activities that help our kids exercise those phonemes. First and foremost, my wife and I make a concerted effort to talk about and describe our day-to-day doings out loud with great detail and enthusiasm. We ask our kids lots of questions and try and field as many “why, daddy?” responses as time permits. We don’t water down the process either. Meaning, we use our full vocabulary.
And of course we read to our kids. We have piles of books in their rooms and where they play. As the dad, I try and incorporate language into daily play, sports and activities for the boys. What it all boils down to is my wife and I have become veritable “chatter boxes.” We crack each other up. Dinner-time is practically like listening to a Robert Altman movie with all of us talking over each other.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech/language development you should obviously talk to you pediatrician. In the most serious cases the lack of language development can point to bigger problems like Autism, Apraxia, Hypotonia or something else. Learn what the signs are. Dads, talk to your kids and more importantly read to your kids.