Articulation: What is normal?

Speech Sounds – What’s ‘Normal’?

Articulation is the ability to produce speech sounds. Children normally learn speech sounds following a developmental pattern. By the time a child starts school, unfamiliar listeners should be able to easily understand their speech. At age 5 years, children are expected to have all speech sounds correct, except for R, V, and TH.

Some common sounds children may have difficulty saying, include:

  • –  the K sound, e.g. saying ‘tat’ for ‘cat’
  • –  the L sound, e.g. saying ‘weg’ for ‘leg’
  • –  the R sound, e.g. saying ‘wock’ for ‘rock’
  • –  the SH sound, e.g. saying ‘seep’ for ‘sheep’
  • –  the S sound, e.g. saying ‘thun’ for ‘sun’ (also known as a lisp)
  • –  the TH sound, e.g. saying ‘fumb’ for ‘thumb’A Speech Pathologist can help with correcting speech sound errors and increasing speech clarity. The below points can be used as a guide for when to seek help for common sound errors. Speech Pathology input is recommended if:
  • –  People outside the family have difficulty understanding your child’s speech.
  • –  Difficulty with the K, SH, S*, or L sounds is persisting into Prep.
  • –  Difficulty with the R sound is persisting in Gr. 1.
  • –  Difficulty with the TH sound is persisting into Gr. 2.*children may struggle with the S sound when they lose their front teeth.A Speech Pathologist can do an assessment to determine whether therapy is required, and if so, what approach is suitable. Note that clinical variation does occur and a clinician’s decision to treat or not to treat, and which sounds to treat, does depend on an individual child’s speech profile. Parents play an important role in participating in speech therapy, but working on speech sounds should only occur under the guidance of a Speech Pathologist.If you are looking for private Speech Pathology services, you can do so via the Speech Pathology Australia website – ‘Find a Speech Pathologist’ search tool.


• Kilminster, M.G.E., and Laird, E.M. (1978) Articulation Development in children aged three to nine years. Australian Journal of Communication Disorders, 6, 1, 23-30.
• Speech Pathology Australia Fact Sheet: The Sound of Speech: Preschool and School Aged Children

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