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R, L, S—When Should I Be Concerned About My Child’s Speech Production?

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“Mama, can you gib me my yittle twain?” Billy said to his mom.  Mom knew just what he was asking for (his little train, of course) and she thought his speech was adorable.  Many parents are delighted when their children begin to talk with intent and on a more frequent basis.  However, when should you, as a parent, stop thinking these speech sound errors are cute and start to be concerned?

Children acquire speech sounds in specific orders.  Children, who are under the age of 12 months, should be experimenting with their voices.

Children under 12 months of age will—

1. Coo and goo—these are sounds made at the back of the mouth.

2. Babble with multiple sounds—children will then start to make strings of sounds including /m/, /p/, and /b/ and the vowel sound /a/. (mama, papa, baba)

3. Babble with short and long bursts of sounds—children will begin to use sounds in bursts along with new vowel sounds (papa bibi upupupup).

4. Acquire 1-2 words they will consistently use around the time of the 12 month mark.  These may be simple words like, “mama,” “dada,” “up.”

Children between 12 and 36 months will start to develop speech sounds and language at a faster pace.  For example, by the age of 24 months, children should use approximately 50 words on a consistent basis; however speech sound errors may be present.  Speech sound errors in words are typical of children less than 36 months of age.

In the chart below, each solid bar indicates when children generally MASTER the specified sounds. This chart depicts a range of development and should only be used as a general guide.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


Guest blogger Nicole Everhart, MS, CCC-SLP is a Speech Language Pathologist at Pediatric Speech Therapy Associates in
Centennial, CO.  She is a Hanen certified therapist and believes in parent education and family-centered therapy.  She specializes in speech sound errors and language development in children from birth-age 12. Phone: (720) 542-8737 or email

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson June 17, 2013

    Helpful information. My daughter has always had great pronunciation and my son struggled with his R, L and S. He’s almost 7 now and we’re working on our Th.

  • comment avatar Karin June 17, 2013

    Wondering how long to play it out and how soon to get them in speech therapy?

  • comment avatar Trina June 20, 2013

    This is such great info! We had a family history of stuttering, so when my son was stuttering (more than the typical toddler), we took him in to see our pediatrician to see what she thought. He was about 3 or so at that time. She found he was also unable to make his hard g and c sounds, so she recommended a speech therapist because she felt that addressing any potential problems sooner rather than later was the right approach. I can’t say enough good things about that experience! Our speech therapist was great! She called it ‘bumpy speech’ and never made a negative statement about the stuttering. She used games to help my son through not only his stuttering, but also through enunciation and learning of sounds. The stuttering has long-since passed and not returned. After working through the bumpy speech, she helped him with his c’s and g’s, then his r’s and then his l’s and the list goes on. He is still one of the most articulate kids in his class. I know I often worry if I’m being ‘that parent’ who is overly concerned and borderline-paranoid, but I see now that the speech therapy was exactly what my son needed and I have zero regrets. If you have any concerns whatsoever about your child’s speech, I would highly recommend seeing a speech therapist!

  • comment avatar Nicole Everhart September 3, 2013

    Thanks for posting this article! We were so honored to be guest contributors and have the opportunity to share some of our knowledge with the loyal readers of Mile High Mamas.

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