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Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

Speech and sound awareness – Early Years

Speech sound development is a gradual process which happens over many years. All children follow an individual path in speech sound development as each of their life experiences is individual; children learning two languages will learn two sets of speech sounds. Children develop clear speech in quiet language stimulating environments.

They rely on both their listening skills and visual skills to follow lip patterns and match their own speech to the speech they hear. Babies engage in vocal play i.e. babbling and cooing. They rely on adults in their environment to teach the basics of conversational rules e.g. turn-taking and imitation, this helps them to attend to the detail of the speech sounds they hear.

The tables below show the sounds child typically learn at certain ages, examples of words containing those sounds and the most common errors they make. Older children with delayed speech may continue to make errors typical in younger children’s speech.

Another important area of speech sound development is phonological awareness. Phonological Awareness is the awareness that language is composed of words, syllables and sounds. A child needs to be able to identify and manipulate sounds, syllables and words within language to develop strong foundations for reading and spelling.

Manipulating sounds includes deleting, adding, substituting or reversing the order of syllables or sounds e.g., say ‘can’; now say it without the /k/; say can with /m/ instead of /k/.

Some children with phonological awareness difficulties may also experience speech sound difficulties due to poor sound discrimination skills.

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Last updated: 17 April, 2018

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