For fact sheets and information about communication milestones visit the Speech Pathology Australia website.



Learning to use speech sounds is an important part of your child’s development. During their first year, babies begin playing with sounds by babbling and they start using words around the age of 12 months. The ability to produce speech sounds correctly happens gradually. Children’s speech development varies but speech should be clear and able to be understood by unfamiliar people by the age of four. Speech Pathologists use developmental milestones as a guide to assess whether a child might need some help. A speech assessment can determine whether errors in a child’s speech are expected or not for their age. The average age children learn to pronounce English consonants correctly is:

  • By 2-3 years: p, b, m, d, n, h, t, k, g, w, ng, f, y
  • By 4 years: l, j, ch, s, v, sh, z j
  • By 5 years: r, zh (as in "measure"), th (voiced-as in "this")
  • By 6 years: th (voiceless-as in "thing")

The above guidelines are based on 15 English speech studies compiled by McLeod and Crowe, 2018.



Speech Pathologists talk about language in terms of understanding (receptive language) and expression (expressive language).

Receptive Language refers to a person’s ability to understand language and gain meaning from what others are saying. Children with receptive language difficulties find it hard to follow instructions, understand questions and comprehend language that is both spoken and written.

Expressive Language is the ability to use words and sentences to talk about thoughts and ideas, generate stories, to interact socially and for literacy development. Children with expressive language difficulties may have trouble labelling objects in their environment, describing actions and events, answering questions, retelling a story or using language to think, reason and solve problems.

Social Communication (Pragmatics) refers to the way that language is used in social situations. Social communication skills include

  • Using language for different purposes eg: greeting, giving information, making requests
  • Ability to adapt language to meet the needs of the listener or situation.
  • Following the unspoken rules of conversations eg: taking tunrs, looking at a speaker, standing at an appropriate distance from a speaker, interpreting and using facial expressions and gestures.

Early identification of a language delay or disorder is important. A Speech Pathologist is able to assess whether your child’s language development is typical, whether there is a language delay or whether there is a language disorder.



Reading and spelling skills are crucial for successful functioning in society. Research has identified a strong relationship between reading, spelling and aspects of speech, language and auditory processing skills.

English is an alphabetic language and in order to read and spell children must develop a knowledge of how letters and sounds relate to each other. An awareness and understanding of how sounds exist in words is a developmental skill. Sound awareness develops gradually and a certain level of sound awareness is needed before a child can benefit from reading and spelling instruction.

If you are concerned that your child’s literacy skills are not developing, an evaluation of your child’s skills can help to determine why your child is experiencing difficulties and whether specialist help is recommended.



Stuttering is a disorder in which the fluency of speech is disrupted. There are many different types of stutters.

Common features of stuttering may include:

  • Repetitions of whole words or syllables
  • Repetitions of a sound

Less common features of stuttering may include:

  • Prolongations – extending or stretching a sound in a word.
  • Blocking – your child may be unable to produce a sound at all. There is a stoppage of airflow and it appears that there is a short period of silent struggling.

Some children may also experience additional features including:

  • Struggle or tension in their facial features
  • Additional body movements such as eye blinking
  • Avoidance of particular sounds, words or situations

Children may experience one type of stutter or a variety of different types of stutters. The characteristics of a stutter may vary significantly between children. Stuttering can change over time.

Will my child grow out of stuttering?

Sometimes but not always. It is difficult to predict who will grow out of stuttering. An assessment by a Speech Pathologist will evaluate a range of factors and make recommendations about intervention. Stuttering can be treated. In Australia the most common approach for children is the Lidcombe Program, an evidence based program for preschool and early school aged children