Thursday, April 29, 2010

Week 15 When Sounds Come In

In the last post we chatted about how activating the muscles in our mouths help our child speak clearer and eat better :)

Today I am going to share a secret that families are not aware of. When we learn to speak, each sound comes in at different times. Just like we have to crawl before we walk, we learn sounds in a specific pattern too.

The earliest sounds that come in are p, b, m, n, w, h. They show up by the age of 3.

The next group of sounds are k, g, d. These sounds come in anywhere from 2 to 4 years of age.

Then there is t, ng sounds which come in from 2 to 6 years of age.

Next f and y (like in yellow) come in from 2 1/2 to 4 years of age.

Then r and l come in from 3 to 6 years of age.

Next s can come in from 3 until 8 years of age.

And sh and ch start at 3 1/2 to 7 years of age.

Then z comes in from 3 1/2 to 8 years of age.

And j (like in jam) is 4 to 7 years of age.

And v is 4 to 8 years of age.

And the th (thumb) is from 4 1/2 to 7 years of age.

And the th (this/that) is from 5 to 8 years of age.

And lastly the zh sound (measure) comes in from 6 to 8+ years of age.

This list is from the Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders. It states that these the lower end is the customary age limit to start production and the higher end is an age level at which 90% of children are customarily producing the sound.

OK, now I want you to really think about this! We all know 2 and 3 year old children that talk just like an adult and can say their sounds clearly. And those are the kids that we always compare our children to and feel that our children are behind. But the reality is that sounds have a progression of when they come in.

And that is because it takes very specific skills for the mouth to be able to actually produce the sounds correctly. And if the mouth is not developmentally ready to produce those sounds, then it is basically impossible for the child to be successful. Let's think about the easy sounds, they are all sounds that you make with your lips and blowing air...that's it and that's why they are the easiest.

To do the k, g, d, t sounds you need to be able to move your tongue tip up behind your top teeth or be able to close off the back of your throat...much more complicated than just moving your lips and blowing air.

Try making different sounds yourself and really think about what your mouth, lips and tongue are doing to produce those sounds. Try the r's one of the hardest.

This information should be very reassuring to you. If you have a 2 year old that is talking but hard to understand, look at the sounds they are producing well. And if they are the easy sounds, relax, they are right where they are supposed to be.

Also, remember the hints I gave you last week with the oral motor stimulation? This is the key to helping sounds come in as clear as possible. So, if you have a 3 year old and you are noticing that the k, g, d, t, sounds aren't even close, you can increase the oral motor stimulation that you are doing with your child. More blowing activities, putting peanut butter behind their upper teeth and having them push it off with their tongues, straw drinking, and increasing intensity of flavor and textures. All these will help so much.

Some speech therapists do not focus on oral motor stimulation as a technique to improve sound productions especially as a child gets older and I think that this is unfortunate because working on the muscles first makes it so much easier in the end (and it's fun :) Also I have found that some speech therapists work on sounds with children before it is developmentally appropriate which can make therapy frustrating. My suggestion is to check the sounds that your child is saying and compare it to the list above and then relax. If you wait until the sound is supposed to be made then your child will be able to learn it much easier than if you are trying to push it before they are ready.

As always, feel free to ask me any questions or share any concerns. I hope that you all have a fantastic week!!

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