Is Your Child Intelligible?


Is it challenging to understand what your child is saying?

Is he or she getting frustrated?

Although intelligibility norms tend to vary, the following information adapted from ASHA’s comprehensive summary  – Neurological and developmental foundations of speech acquisition can help you in deciding whether or not to seek the assistance of an experienced and certified speech language pathologist:

By 2 years old = 26-50% of children are intelligible (Weiss, 1982)

By 2 years 6 months old = 51-70% of children are intelligible (Weiss, 1982)

By 3 years old = 71-80% of children are intelligible (Weiss, 1982)

Additional research reveals that by 3 years old  = 73% (or, 50-80%) of children are intelligible when judged by three unfamiliar listeners. (Vihman, 1988)

It should also be noted that according to Vihman,  “…children who used more complex sentences were more difficult to understand (1988).”

By 4 years old 93% (or, 73-100%) of children are intelligible in conversational speech with unfamiliar listeners (Gordon-Brannan, 1993 cited in Gordon-Brannan, 1994).

If above information is too hard to remember, here’s a good GENERAL rule of thumb:

  • Most 2 year olds are at least 50% intelligible
  • Most 3 year olds are at least 75% intelligible
  • *Most 4 year olds are approximately 100% intelligible

*This does not mean that they are saying every sound correctly. It means that a new or unfamiliar listener can understand what he says. There are several sounds that are not expected to be mastered until a later age.

According to an online CEU course I recently completed titled, Assessments and Differential Diagnosis of Speech Sound Disorders, Dr. Lynn Williams, Ph.D., talks about a critical age hypotheses for remediating unintelligible speech. According to research by Bishop and Adams (1990), she explains that “Unintelligible speech must be resolved by age five or six in order to significantly reduce academic problems…” She goes on to say that unintelligible speech in the early years may affect literacy development.

Since most unintelligible children do not seek speech therapy treatment until approximately 4 years of age, speech therapy must be efficient and effective at remediating the speech disorder.

My goal at Scanlon Speech Therapy is to provide efficient and effective speech therapy!

Interested in reading more? Please see:

Kimberly Scanlon, M.A. CCC-SLP is a speech language pathologist, an author and a mother. As the owner of Scanlon Speech Therapy, LLC, a unique boutique practice in Bergen County, Kimberly embraces individuality and treats the whole person. Her goal is to spread compassion, hope, and some speech, language and literacy tips one moment, one person at a time.  Her first book, My Toddler Talks: Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child’s Language Development and her her second book, Learning to Read is a Ball are available for purchase at online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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