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Milestones for the acquisition of speech sounds

Monday, July 27, 2009

As a speech and language pathologist, one of my jobs is to know the milestones for speech development, specifically when children should acquire certain sounds. Parents often ask me if their child is developing appropriately based on the sounds their child uses in speech and the content of their utterances. In an effort to help parents and caregivers decide if they should seek speech therapy, below you will find the sound acquisition norms used by many speech therapists including myself when determining if a child is delayed in their speech development. It should be noted that these are only a guideline for speech therapists and that many things are considered when determining if speech therapy is needed in addition to these guidelines. If you have concerns about the development of your child’s speech, please see a speech and language pathologist for a professional opinion.

Like all developmental milestones, children develop at their own pace. The ages listed below are the recommended ages of acquisition for sounds and sound clusters based generally on the age at which 90% of children can correctly produce the sound. It should be noted that certain sounds are acquired at a later age based on the sex of the child and those specific sounds have a star beside them.


The first column is the sound, the second column is age of acquisition for females in years;months, and the third column is the age of acquisition for males in years;months.

/m/        3;0     3;0

**/n/     3;6     3;0

“-ing” as in “swimming”     7;0     7;0

/h-/       3;0     3;0

/w-/       3;0     3;0

**“y” as in “yellow”     4;0     5;0

/p/       3;0     3;0

/b/       3;0     3;0

**/t/     4;0     3;6

**/d/     3;0     3;6

/k/       3;6     3;6

**/g/     3;6     4;0

/f-/       3;6     3;6

/-f/       5;6     5;6

/v/       5;6     5;6

**“th” as in “think”     6;0     8;0

**“th” as in “that”     4;6     7;0

/s/       7;0     7;0

/z/       7;0     7;0

**“sh”     6;0     7;0

**“ch”     6;0     7;0

**“g” as in “gym”     6;0     7;0

**/l-/     5;0     6;0

**/-l/     6;0     7;0

/r/         8;0     8;0

“er”       8;0     8;0



**/tw/kw/     4;0     5;6

/sp/st/sk/      7;0     7;0

/sm/sn/         7;0     7;0

/sw/                7;0     7;0

/sl/                  7;0     7;0

**/pl/bl/kl/gl/fl/     5;6     6;0

/pr/br/tr/dr/kr/gr/fr/     8;0     8;0

“thr” as in “throne”     9;0     9;0

/skw/               7;0     7;0

/spl/                 7;0     7;0

/spr/str/skr/     9;0     9;0

*Smit, Hand, Freilinger, Bernthal, and Bird (1990).   Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 55, 779-798.


Again, these ages are just one of the many pieces to the puzzle in terms of figuring out if a speech delay is present, and if it is, how delayed a child’s speech is when compared to their peers. However, I find this chart helpful when working with my clients and their families and I wanted to pass the information on to the families that may have questions about their child’s speech development.



“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.” -Eleanor Roosevelt