What is speech delay/disorder?

During the early preschool years, some children’s speech is easier to understand than others. Children who are more difficult to understand may be developing their speech skills at a slower rate than their peers.

Each sound has an expected age-range for when it should be correctly articulated. Speech sound delays/disorders include problems with articulation (making/being able to produce correct sounds) and phonology (sound patterns).

An articulation difficulty occurs when a child has difficulty saying certain consonants and vowels. This means the child has difficulty in forming the shapes to make those sounds. Physical differences in the mouth can be (but not always are) the reason for articulation disorders. (e.g. missing teeth, overbite, underbite, crossbite, cleft palate, tongue tie, etc.).
A phonological delay/disorder involves patterns of sound errors. For example, if a child substitutes all sounds typically produced at the back of the mouth like “k” and “g” for those in the front of the mouth like “t” and “d” (e.g., saying “tup” for “cup” or “date” for “gate”).


‘Intelligibility’ is a term used to explain how well a child’s speech can be understood. If you, your relatives, or strangers have difficulty understanding your child some/most of the time, this may be a sign of a speech difficulty.

Signs of articulation difficulty:

An articulation disorder occurs when children have problems producing specific age expected sounds. Your child may substitute a sound, leave out, add or change the sound, which makes your child’s speech difficult to understand.

Signs of phonological difficulty:

Some examples of phonological processes include:

  • Fronting                            (car = tar)
  • Consonant harmony        (mine = mime)
  • Weak syllable deletion    (elephant = efant)
  • Cluster reduction             (spoon = poon)
  • Stopping                           (fish = pish)
  • Gliding                              (rabbit = wabbit)

Some of these may be appropriate for your child’s age & developmental stage, the speech and language therapist will determine which errors are appropriate and which are delayed for your child’s age. The speech and language therapist will give detailed information to the parent on what errors are expected at the child’s particular age.

What CAINT can do:

CAINT Speech and Language Therapists will provide an in-depth assessment of your child’s speech followed by an evidence based treatment plan with individualized goals to suit your child’s speech difficulties (articulation or phonological difficulties) if necessary. To maximise support for your child’s speech development, CAINT Speech and Language Therapists will provide you with a homework program to continue work at home. CAINT Speech and Language Therapists will also provide you and/or the teacher with useful advice about how you can ensure the skills you and your child learn within the therapy sessions can be transferred and maintained at home and/or in the school setting.