Speech Sound Disorders

Speech is how we say speech sounds and words. It is normal for young children to say some sounds the wrong way. Some sounds do not develop until a child is 4, 5, or 6 years old. Signs of a speech sound disorder in young children include:

1–2 years  Not saying p, b, m, h, and w the right way in words most of the time  
2–3 years Not saying k, g, f, t, d, and n the right way in words most of the time. Being hard to understand, even to people who know the child well. 

You can help your child learn to say sounds by

  • Saying sounds the right way when you talk. Your child needs good speech models.
  • Not correcting speech sounds. It is okay if your child says some sounds the wrong way.


Most of us pause or repeat a sound or word when we speak. When this happens a lot, the person may stutter. Young children may stutter for a little while. This is normal and often goes away over time. Signs that stuttering might not stop include:

2½–3 years 
  • Having a lot of trouble saying sounds or words
  • Repeating the first sounds of words, like "b-b-b-ball" for "ball"
  • Pausing a lot while talking
  • Stretching sounds out, like "fffffarm" for "farm"

You can help your child by

  • Giving your child time to talk.
  • Not interrupting or stopping your child while he speaks.
  • Noticing if your child gets upset when stuttering. Pay attention to how she speaks. Children who stutter may close their eyes or move their face or body when talking.

Voice Disorders

We use our voice to make sounds. Our voice can change when we use it the wrong way. We can lose our voice when we are sick or after talking or yelling a lot. Signs that your child may have a voice disorder include:

  • Having a hoarse, scratchy, or breathy voice.
  • Sounding nasal, or like he talks through his nose.

You can help your child by:

  • Seeing a doctor if your child’s voice sounds different and it does not go away after a short time.
  • Telling your child not to shout or scream.
  • Keeping your child away from cigarette smoke.

Hearing Loss

Some children have a hearing loss at birth. Others lose their hearing as they get older. Some signs that your child may have a hearing loss include:

Birth–1 year Not paying attention to sounds
7 months–1 year Not responding when you call her name
1–2 years Not following simple directions
Birth–3 years Having speech and language delays

You can help your child by:

  • Making sure your child has a newborn hearing screening.
  • Taking your child to the doctor if he has an ear infection.
  • Seeing an audiologist if you worry about your child’s hearing.

Act Today

Getting help early is better than waiting. You may be able to get free or low-cost services for your child. Talk to your doctor or contact your social worker at school. They can tell you about early intervention programs and other services.