There can be many reasons why your child’s speech may be difficult to understand.

Your child’s age and stage of speech and language development are one of the first things we will consider.

Children gradually become easier to understand.  By school age, we expect that your child’s speech will be easily understood by all conversational partners.  There may still be a few tricky sounds and longer words may still be unclear at times but, as a general rule of thumb, by the time a child starts school we can understand most of what he or she says.

There is quite a wide amount of variety around when children acquire speech and language milestones.  If you have any concerns it is best to seek the advice of your child’s educator as a first port of call.  Educators have the benefit of working with a large group of children a similar age to yours.  If your child is more difficult to understand than other children his or her age, then it may be worthwhile to seek a Speech Pathology opinion.

When do Speech Sounds develop?

Different sounds develop at different stages.  We often refer to the early, middle and late sounds when working with young children.

Most consonant sounds are acquired by the age of 5;0 years (years;months).  The consonants /b, n, m, p, h, w, d / are usually acquired between the age of 2 and 3 years followed by /g, k, f, t, ng, y/ which are heard in child speech by the age of 3;11.  By the age of 5 years, children are using /v, j, s, ch, l , sh and z/ accurately.  The ‘r’ sound is usually used with accuracy by 6 years of age and the ‘th’ sound by 7 years of age.

My child is speaking in ‘gobbeltygoop’!

Some children need assistance to learn how to use words in simple sentences.  When using spoken language is difficult or lagging in development, they may substitute what sounds like ‘gobbeltygoop’ for words at times.  Speech Pathologists may refer to this as ‘jargon’ and it simply means that your child is likely to be using combinations of sounds and syllables to communicate instead of words.  Often children will do so using correct intonation and facial expressions to help the listener understand what is being communicated.  These children often respond well to a focus upon building up their vocabulary and sentences first before focusing upon specific speech sounds.  Our popular ’10 Tips for Talking’ may be an appropriate place for you to start if this sounds like your child.

Tune in and Listen

Are there any particular sounds that your child has difficulty in using accurately?  Perhaps start a little list, noting words that are misarticulated.  You might start to see a pattern.

Do I need to be concerned?

Check out our developmental checklists and further information in our guide available for free download  or contact us  The earlier your child receives assistance; the better the outcomes are likely to be so don’t hesitate to reach out for further information and assistance.

What can Parents do to Help

The good news is that there is plenty you can do to help your child develop clear speech.  Start by copying back what your child is saying ‘as he/she would if he/she could’.  This technique of speech and language recasting can be used anywhere at anytime and helps children to gradually map and programme clear speech sounds and language structures in their brain.

Consider getting your child’s hearing tested. In Australia, you can arrange for free hearing tests via contacting your local Community Health Service.

Perhaps check out our home programmes and see if your child might be stimulable to a little practice at home if you have identified specific sounds that are tricky for your child and seem delayed.  You can download these programmes for free her

Remember that your child is not being lazy. Speech and Language takes time to develop.  Often a child can imitate a word or a sound accurately after a parent but it will take lots and lots of practice for that sound to be used accurately in conversation all the time.  Be patient.  Praise any attempts your child makes. Stay positive and reach out for assistance if your ‘gut’ is telling you that your child needs help.