A developmental articulation disorder involves the mispronunciation of speech sounds. Examples include lisping, for example, on the “s” sound, substituting “w” for “r”, etc. These are common childhood speaking errors, but by the age of 5 or 6, nearly all speech sounds have been learned by typically developing children. Some children do not learn sounds as quickly, and intervention by a speech-language pathologist becomes necessary.
Children may produce
speech sounds incorrectly for a variety of reasons. I recall vividly
the fun my grandfather used to have asking us to say “three thirsty
thistles” with our front teeth missing. The normal processes
of development of the mouth and teeth, however, are usually not enough
to induce a developmental articulation disorder. There are two main
types of developmental articulation disorders, those that occur due
to a physical disability and those that occur in absence of a physical
disability (called organic and functional articulation disorders, respectively).
Functional articulation disorders are most common. In such cases, a
child frequently does not hear (or process) speech sounds correctly,
or he/she may not hear his/her own mispronunciations.
Below is a chart of the typical order of speech sound mastery in children. Keep in mind, however, that children’s performances are very diverse, and each child is unique in his/her sound learning. However, if his/her peers are more accurate in their speech, or worse yet, if your child is being teased over his speech, trust your instincts and seek an evaluation with a speech-language pathologist.