24 - 10 - 2017


Speech Development


Children with speech difficulties can be difficult to understand and can experience frustration when communicating. This may be because they are using phonological processes that are not appropriate for their age.

What is a Phonological Disorder?
Phonological disorders are not caused by a problem with the tongue, lips teeth or voice. Instead they are a group of language disorders that affect children’s ability to develop intelligible speech, because the sound patterns of language are disrupted.

Children will substitute the sound they should say with an easier one, even though they may understand the difference between the two words when you say them. For example the ‘d’ sound is easier to produce so your child may say ‘dish’ for ‘fish’. Your child thinks they are saying ‘fish’ correctly (and is probably wondering why you are giving them a ‘dish’ when they want to look at the ‘fish’). Phonological disorders can cause frustration for both the child and the person listening. Listed below are some common phonological processes:

• Context sensitive voicing
A voiceless sound is replaced by a voiced sound.
e.g. ‘bencil’ for ‘pencil’
• Final Consonant Deletion
The end sound of a word is omitted.
e.g. ‘boa_’ for ‘boat
• Fronting
A sound produced at the back of the mouth is produced as a front sound.
e.g. ‘tee’ for ‘key’
• Stopping
A fricative sound (f, s, z, v, sh) or affricate sound (ch, j) is produced as a stop sound (p, b, t, d).
e.g. ‘dish’ for ‘fish’
        ‘tun’ for ‘sun’
        ‘dark’ for ‘shark’ 
        ‘bair’ for ‘chair’
• Cluster Reduction
In a cluster of two sounds one sound is omitted.
e.g. ‘_nail’ for ‘snail’
        ‘f_og’ for ‘frog’
• Gliding A liquid consonant (/l/, /r/) is replaced by /w/. e.g. ‘wabbit’ for ‘rabbit’
        ‘wunch’ for ‘lunch’

There are different ages in which these processes should begin to disappear. If you have concerns about your child’s speech it is recommended that you seek an assessment from a Speech Pathologist so they can assess your child’s speech and determine whether your child’s errors are appropriate for their age and the severity of their errors. Your Speech Pathologist will also advise you of the best form of intervention for your child.

Therapy sessions aimed at developing your child’s speech skills are fun for both you and your child. Your child learns different sounds through games and activities. Parents are always involved in the sessions and homework is always given so that progress can be continued at home.


  • Bowen, C (1998) Developmental phonological disorders. A practical guide for families and teachers. Melbourne: ACER Press.
  • Flynn & Gwen (1996) Children’s Phonology Sourcebook. UK: Winslow Press Ltd

Please visit Caroline Bowen’s website for further information on speech development: www.speech-language-therapy.com