My child has unclear speech: Is it phonology?

  • 4 December 2013
  • Rosie Dwyer

Sometimes children’s talking can be really hard to understand for both familiar and unfamiliar listeners. They may be mixing sounds up or deleting sounds from words. If this sounds like your child they may have a phonological disorder or delayed phonology. 

All children use phonological processes at some point in their speech development. While children are learning to talk they tend to simplify their speech. They do this as they may not yet have they ability to co-ordinate their articulators, lips, tongue, teeth, palate, and jaw, in order to produce clear speech. Often we can identify and predict these phonological processes, as they progress in a straightforward way through typical development. If you would like to learn more about phonological processes and what ages they should resolve, please download the Speak To Me Phonology Norm handout. 

Speak To Me Phonology Norms

So when do phonological processes become problematic? If your child is still using phonological processes that should have been resolved for their age, this may be an indicator that you might need to seek more advice. 

If your child has had a history of re-current ear infections, tonsillitis, chest infections and / or colds and coughs, this can affect the development of their phonological system. 

Some children use several phonological processes in their speech, which can make them hard to understand. This may also be an indictor that a phonological disorder is present. Some formalised testing may be necessary. 

Therapy for phonological processes usually targets the process and not the sound e.g. if your child is replacing all /k/ sounds with a /t/ we teach therapy techniques which contrast /k/ and /t/ words (key vs. tea). This technique is known as minimal pair therapy. It helps your child to learn that if they use the wrong sound it can change the entire meaning of the word. 

If you are concerned that your child may have a phonological disorder or difficulties with their phonological system, you can contact us here at Speak To Me to have a chat #021 554 523 or send us an email 


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