Not all errors in speech are due to articulation. Sound errors can follow a pattern called a phonological process - a simplification of adult speech. All children use these processes while their speech and language develops. Young children use these simplified patterns as they learn to produce their sounds. Examples include "wa-wa" for "water", "tat" for "cat" "do" for "dog" or "ha" for "hat." Up to three years of age, these patterns are appropriate.
As children mature, so do their speech sounds and they stop using these patterns to simplify words. In fact, by age 5, most children stop using all phonological processes and their speech sounds more like the adults around them. As children stop using phonological processes, their speech becomes more understandable. This allows them to become better communicators.
Many times children do not hear the differences in the words and will say one word to mean three different ones. For example, children who continue to delete the initial consonant from a word may say “all” to mean each of these words: fall, ball, wall. This can cause frustration for the child and their communication partner, as there can be difficulty with understanding.
One of our favorite speech blogs has made a chart to help understand phonological processes! Learn more about the patterns you may hear, and the age at which we would expect them to go away!
If you have concerns about your child's speech, or if you are noticing frustration with communication it is recommended that you schedule an evaluation with a speech language pathologist to determine if intervention would benefit speech clarity.