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Speech sounds

Speech sounds are the sounds we use in words.  If we use the right sounds in the right order then people can understand what we are saying.  It can take a long time to learn how to make the right sounds.  We think of  speech sounds being different from the alphabet, they are the “pure” sounds we hear rather than the letter name e.g. sound “b” rather than the letter name “Bee”. Some children make mistakes which we would expect for a child of their age.  These will get better without extra help.

Think of learning sounds as building a wall. Listening is the cement in the wall that enables the sound production (bricks) to be laid.  You need to make sure the cement (listening) and bricks (sound production) are established at each level before moving on to the next level  for example

Songs and rhymes
Phrases and sentences
Complex words e.g. caterpillar
Short words (consonant/vowel consonant) e.g. cup
Joining consonants and vowels e.g. car
Saying single sounds k/c
Listening for sounds (discrimination) e.g. k/c vs t

Useful resources

Take a look at the following pages for more information on:

Strategies and advice

There are many ways to support speech development.  These include

  • Phase out dummies and bottles as soon as possible
  • Be face to face when you talk
  • Encourage the child to look at you
  • Slow down your own speech
  • Focus on what your child says rather than how it’s said
  • Model back the correct sounds but don’t expect your child to repeat it, e.g. If your child says “tat” you could say “that’s right, it’s a cat”
  • Confirm what you DO understand
  • Acknowledge your child’s feeling e.g. if they are frustrated
  • Avoid overcorrecting
  • Ensure your child is face watching when an adult says a word as this will ensure they  can see how the  sound and words are formed
  • Ensure your child is face watching when an adult says a word as this will ensure he can see how the  sound and words are formed.

Speech workshop - Talking clearly: Helping your child’s speech sound development

If your child has been seen by a member of the team you would have been advised to access our online training resource, we ask that parents /carers access this prior to therapy commencing.

Useful film clips

Top tips

Sounds fun

Supporting Phonological Awareness

Minimal pairs – A therapy approach for children with a phonological delay or disorder

Cued Articulation

A guide to generalising speech sounds

Useful websites

  • National Literacy Trust
    Has resources and information for parents, early years settings and schools to promote language and literacy development.
  • ICAN
    For information relating to speech, language and communication needs.
    This website supports parents and represents children and young people with speech, language and communication needs.
  • Talking Point
    Talking Point gives parents/carers and practitioners the information they need to help children develop their speech, language and communication skills.


The Children’s Therapies Team support speech development at a range of levels this includes

  • Parent workshops
  • Pre-school / School years Key worker / TA workshops
  • Cued articulation training

Depending on your locality, these can be booked by either contact your local service or via the online shop.

Parent workshops to support speech sound development are offered by the SLT department for families known to the service.


Please refer to the Speech sound development norms chart for information about typical speech sound development. This includes information about articulation development (making sounds in isolation) and phonology development (using patterns/processes in speech).

Some speech sound errors are seen in typical speech sound development. If your child is making one or more of the typical error patterns after the age at which they are typically no longer seen, then their speech sound development is delayed and they would benefit from support from home and nursery/school.

Some children would benefit from help from the Speech and Language Therapy service and we would encourage you to consider a referral to our team if your child is doing any of the following:

  • Not able to make speech sounds in isolation at least one year after they should have developed (see the Articulation table in the Speech Sounds Developmental Norms).
  • Using 4 or more speech processes beyond the age at which they are typically no longer seen (see the Phonology table in the Speech Sounds Developmental Norms).
  • Using any speech process at least 18 months beyond the age at which it is typically no longer seen (see the Phonology table in the Speech Sounds Developmental Norms).
  • Making mistakes which are not described on the Phonology table within the Speech Sound Developmental Norms document (for example, difficulties with vowels, missing consonant sounds off from the beginning or middle of words).
  • Saying words differently each time they try to say them.

If your child is at nursery or school, discuss your concerns with them and agree together whether a referral is needed.

For Early years settings, please use the KCHFT Speech screen tool to help to decide if a referral is required, and submit a copy of this with your referral. One hard copy of this screen is available to all settings for free. Alternatively please refer to below.

For school-aged children referrals should include a recent Speech Link assessment and evidence of two terms’ worth of support in school.