Does My Preschooler Need Speech Therapy? – Speech Sounds Edition


A Guide for Parents

Hey party people! I hope you all are enjoying the long Seattle summer days and all that comes with it. Around this time of year, we receive a lot of inquiries from parents of preschoolers that are wondering if their preschooler would benefit from speech and language therapy prior to the start of kindergarten the following year. When it comes to language and communication skills, there is a wide range of areas to focus (vocabulary, grammar, narrative skills, speech sound production, social communication…the list goes on) For this post, we are going to look specifically at the production of sounds to form words, sentences and stories AKA speech! You may be thinking about speech sound production if you are a parent that is starting to notice that you are understanding your child most of the time, while others in your child’s life are not (teachers at preschool, parents of other kids at the playground, family members not living in your home, etc.), and are wondering if this means you should seek out speech therapy support. 

In this blog post, we will explore the signs that may indicate the need for speech sound production support for preschoolers

Typical Speech Development in Preschoolers

By the age of three, a child is usually (50-75% of the time) understood by familiar adults

By the age of four, a child is mostly (75-90% of the time) understood by familiar adults

By the age of five, a child is almost always (90-100% of the time) understood by familiar adults

Types of Speech sound production delays/disorders

There are two types of speech production delays/disorders that we see most often:

Articulation: Articulation is a speech sound error for one specific sound. A frequent example of this is difficulty a person might have moving their tongue to the right spot, and with the right amount of force, and timing to produce an “R” in “hammeR” and any other word that has the “R” sound. Articulation errors are also often seen with the sounds: L, S, Z, TH, SH, CH 

Phonological: Phonological errors are speech sound errors that are based on the person’s understanding of the speech sound system. These errors show up as a pattern that simplifies adult’s speech. A frequent example of this is simplifying “skate” to “Kate” although the child is able to say the “S” sound, they do not produce it in the word “Kate” because their speech sound system has not yet figured out these two words are made in different ways.

With the above being said, please remember that every child’s speech development is unique, and minor speech errors or delays are not uncommon during the preschool years. However, if you find that your child’s speech is consistently challenging for others to understand or notice any persistent patterns in their speech sound errors, seeking professional evaluation and support can make a significant difference in their language development. That is where we come in. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have further questions about this blog post and/or questions about your child and their speech sound production skills and how we can help them.

Supporting your child’s speech and language development during the preschool years can set them on a path of success and confident communication as they approach kindergarten and beyond. With the right guidance and early intervention, you can empower your little one to express themselves clearly and thrive in their interactions with the world around them. Let’s celebrate each step of their language journey and ensure they have the tools they need to express themselves with confidence and clarity. Happy communicating!