FAQs Speech Milestones

1. What is a speech sound or articulation disorder?

It is a difficulty producing speech sounds (usually consonants, but sometimes vowels) beyond the age when a person is expected to have learned the sounds.

2. What are the types of speech sound errors?

Common errors include (1) omissions (e.g., “poon” for spoon); (2) substitutions (e.g., “dood” for good); and (3) distortions (production of sounds like, but not exactly like, the intended sounds). Less common is the addition error (e.g., “buhlack” for black).

3. When do children learn speech?

Most children produce early developing sounds (e.g., “p,” “b,” and “m”) as early as 12 months of age, and they learn a great number and types of speech sounds between 18 months and 3 years. By age 4, typically developing children produce most sounds correctly and also the appropriate number of syllables and sounds in a word. Some substitutions (e.g., “fum” for thumb; “wabbit” for rabbit) and distortions (e.g., lisps) may still occur in words spoken by 5- and 6-year-olds. By the age 7, children should be able to produce correctly all sounds of their language .

4. Do children outgrow a speech sound disorder?

A child’s overall speech pattern may improve as he or she matures, but direct treatment with speech and/or language therapy generally increases the rate of improvement of speech pattern. Some children will need direct treatment to make any improvement or to eliminate speech errors. A specific answer to this question would require an evaluation or assessment of the nature of the individual child’s speech pattern.

5. What causes a speech sound problem?

The exact causes are difficult to determine. Speech sounds errors may be the result of faulty learning of the sounds. They may also be the result of physical problems such as hearing loss, neurological conditions, diseases, and developmental delays.

6. Can adults with a speech sound problem be helped?

Most speech sound problems can be helped regardless of age, but the longer the problems persist, the harder it is to change or correct. For this reason, early intervention is especially important.

7. Is it important to treat speech sound problems?

When you consider the possible effects that speech problems may have on social and emotional development, learning to read and write, and/or vocational status, the answer becomes obvious.

8. Who can help?

A speech-language pathologist (SLP) certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA: is integral to speech improvement. SLPs help people develop communication as well as treat speech, language, swallowing, and voice disorders. They evaluate or assess the problems and create a treatment plan. Please talk to an SLP, if you are concerned about any speech or language problems.