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Speech delay and disorder


Speech Production

The first speech sounds begin when a child starts to babble. Speech production continues to develop up to approximately 8 years of age. Most children will follow a typical developmental pathway, but for some this may vary.

For a typical developmental pathway, by the time a child is two years old, familiar adults will be able to understand the child’s speech most of the time. By three years of age, children can be understood by unfamiliar adults most of the time and by five years of age, most children will be understood all of the time in all contexts.

Speech is produced by moving the jaw, lips and tongue, and coordinating breath support and phonatory control. As the articulatory structures move, different shapes are made, and this results in different sounds. This refined motor act is reliant on muscle tone and breath support and a series of hierarchical speech-systems develop from there. The three main speech sub-systems are:

  • Jaw

  • Lips

  • Tongue


Why does my child have speech difficulty?

A number of factors can influence a child’s capacity to develop effectively in this area including:

  • Middle ear complications – conductive hearing loss

  • Disorders of muscle tone

  • Motor coordination difficulties

  • underlying Myofunctional Disorders

  • Phonological processing difficulties

  • Structural abnormalities such as large tonsils or adenoids

  • Global developmental delay

  • Social communication delay or disorder such as Autism

  • Brain trauma

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