Articulation, or speech, refers to the sounds produced that make up a language.
Typically, young speakers of Standard American English produce most vowels and consonants such as /b, d, m, and p/ by 36 months. Oftentimes these sounds are heard in early babble such as when a baby produces "mama" or "dada," and can be produced as young as 10 months.
However, the three sounds that are most often mispronounced by ages five and six are the /s/ (e.g., the tongue may protrude between the teeth as in a lisp), /r/ (e.g., the child may substitute /w/ for /r/ as in "wed" for "red"), and lastly, /th/ (e.g., "thumb" may sound like "fum").
While some children may not accurately produce these sounds until age 8, most children accurately produce all sounds by age six.
If your child makes errors on the aforementioned sounds, or has not acquired sounds as seen on the chart below, your child may be a candidate for articulation, also known as traditional speech therapy. Because these errors do not "go away" as a child gets older, speech therapy is recommended to remediate these persistent sound errors.
In addition, your child will gain confidence in being more intelligible to peers and adults in all social settings.
Because school speech therapy for articulation is often conducted in groups without much time to work on your child's individual errors, as well as the fact that families often do not wish their child to get pulled out of class time, private speech therapy is usually conducted to supplement school speech therapy, or instead of school speech therapy, once-to-twice a week for thirty minute sessions.
Working on specific speech sounds, while advancing from word-level to sentence-level to conversational-level is an exciting and rewarding journey for your child. Children as young as 41 months can benefit from working on increasing articulation skills through play, worksheets, as well as, evidenced-based oral-motor therapy.