Articulation and Speech Sounds

Articulation is the way we produce speech sounds. Humans use their tongue, lips, teeth, jaw and vocal folds to produce speech sounds. Children can experience a range of difficulties that will affect the way they produce their speech sounds. 

Most children will make mistakes with their speech sound production at some point in their development. Different sounds are expected to develop at different ages. A speech sound delay exists when a child continues to make these mistakes past the age expected. 

Speech sound delays involve articulation (making the sound) and phonological processes (sound patterns). A phonological delay will cause patterns of speech sound errors.

Symptoms of an articulation delay may include:

  • Not sounding clear
  • A child's speech sounds slushy
  • Producing /s/ as a /th/ sound. For example: sun becomes thun.

Symptoms of a phonological delay may include:

  • Not sounding clear
  • Leaving off sounds at the beginning, middle or end of words
  • Changing sounds in words, or in a conversation, even though they can say the sound when you practice it with your child.
  • Substituting sounds in words. For example: fish becomes /pish/.


The causes of speech sound delays are often unknown.  A number of factors may be working together to contribute to your child's difficulties. Family history is often the most likely indicator, although this may not always be the case. A child may have learnt to a produce a sound incorrectly, or may not have learnt the rules of speech sound production on their own. This may mean the child has a speech sound difficulty, and may not simply outgrow it. 

Children who have experienced frequent ear infections with hearing loss are at risk of experiencing a speech sound difficulties.

Children who can say a sound when they copy but don't do it when talking in conversation, are not being lazy. This will often occur and may indicate the child is experiencing a phonological delay.   

If you have concerns for your child's speech and articulation skills, contact Chatterbox Speech Pathology to book an assessment.

  • In Penrith (02) 4731 2432
  • In Narellan (02) 4647 6777