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Common Childhood Speech Errors

This may sound odd coming from a speech-language therapist, but articulation errors are actually normal depending on the age of the child and the misarticulated sounds. While children are learning to produce the sounds of a language, they will simplify the words to make them easier to produce and coordinate. These simplifications are called phonological processes. As a child grows and matures, phonological processes are eliminated naturally. For some children, phonological processes persist, warranting speech therapy.

Common phonological processes that are expected to be eliminated from a child’s speech by the age of three and four years of age:

Processes Eliminated by Three Years: 1. Unstressed syllable deletion: deleting a weak syllable (e.g., banana to nana) 2. Final consonant deletion: deleting the consonant at the end of the word (e.g., hat to ha) 3. Diminutization: adding a “i” to the end of nouns (e.g., dog to doggy) 4. Consonant assimilation: changing a sound so that it takes on a characteristic of another sound in the word (e.g., cat to tat) 5. Reduplication: repeating phonemes or syllables (e.g., water to wawa)

Processes Eliminated by Four Years: 1. Fronting of initial velar sounds: substituting a front sound for a back sound (e.g., can à tan) 2. Deaffication: replacing an affricate sound (“ch” and “j”) with a continuant (“f, v, s, z, sh, zh”) or stop (“p, b, t, d, k, g”) (e.g., chip to sip) 3. Stopping: substituting a stop consonant (“p, b, t, d, k, g”) for any other stop (e.g., sun to dun).

By the age of seven, it is expected that all phonological processes are eliminated from a child’s speech.

In addition to phonological processes there are also common sound substitutions that are produced as children acquire each new sound. These errors are considered developmental until they reach a certain age and then we consider these sounds to be delayed. Some of the more common sound substitutions you may hear are:

  • /b/ for /v/ ex. "hab" for "have"

  • /b/ for /f/ ex. "bive" for "five"

  • /d/ for /th/ ex. "da" for "the"

  • /f/ for /th/ ex. "baf" for "bath"

  • /w/ for /l/ ex. "wittle" for "little"

  • /w/ for /r/ ex. "wat" for "rat"

By the age of seven it is expected that all errors are eliminated from a child's speech. The Speech Spot offers comprehensive speech services, if you have any questions or concerns regarding your child's speech, The Speech Spot would love to help! Call Liz at 618.791.8271 to schedule screening.

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