Speech Delay

Speech delay is when a child’s speech is difficult to understand because there are errors in the sounds they are using in their words, for example they might say “I dee a dat” instead of “I see a cat”.


Children acquire the sounds of English gradually as their language skills develop. By two years of age, adults can understand about half of the words a child is trying to say. By three, this has gone up to 75%. Most sounds are in place by about 4 years of age, with a few later ones like “th” and “r” still to come in.

Why is speech therapy important?


Children with speech delay are twice as likely to have difficulties learning to read that their peers. Research shows that children whose speech errors are corrected before they start school have less risk of learning difficulties than children who start school with a speech delay. Speech therapy in the preschool year can also target early sound-awareness skills that can further reduce the chance of learning difficulties at school.

What does an assessment for speech delay look like?


This varies based on your child’s age and skill level, but an assessment usually covers the following:


  • Discussion with parents around your child’s case history and concerns.
  • Detailed assessment of speech skills including single words, multisyllable words and sentences.
  • Screening assessment of your child’s language skills.
  • Screening assessment of early phonological awareness skills (link to PA/literacy page) for Kindy or school aged children.
  • Discussion around assessment findings, therapy goals, approaches and expected outcomes.

What does speech therapy look like for speech delay?


Speech therapy sessions are tailored specifically to the speech errors that your child has. There are several well-researched approaches to treating children with speech delay and your child’s initial assessment will help decide which treatment approach is best for them. Keeping in mind that all children progress at different rates, your Speech Pathologist should then be able to give you some idea of the time expected to reach your therapy goals.

Therapy sessions are conducted using structured play activities so that they are having fun while still getting the intensity of treatment needed for progress to be made.