Speech Sound Disorder

What is early speech and language development?

Infants and toddlers are the most critical period of speech and language development. Any interruption happened within this period can lead to speech and language difficulties.

During the first three years of life is critical for the speech and language development. Speech and language develop together with the maturity of their brain. Children also learn a lot from what they hear and see within their environment.

What is normal speech and language development?

Communication starts from the first day of life. For example, baby cries to indicate their needs, such as need diaper change, request for milk etc. Communication will continue to develop as they grow.



0 – 6 months

  • Smile when hear parent’s voice
  • Turn head and eyes towards sound source
  • Making sounds to indicate needs
  • Making sound ‘mmm’ and ‘aaa’

7 – 11 months

  • Babbling- ‘baba’, ‘mama’, ‘dada’ without meaning
  • Can id “No” and simple command like “bye-bye”, “salam”
  • Imitate simple sounds like animal sounds

1 year

  • Imitate word syllable, example: ‘bola’ ? /la/, ‘abah’ ? /bah/
  • Master 10-25 words
  • Can show basic body parts
  • Use social words, such as ‘hello’, ‘bye-bye’
  • Calling family members’ name

2 year

  • Master ~ 50 words
  • Combine 2-3 words
  • Follow commands without gesture
  • Attention span ~ 5 minutes

3 year

  • Narrate simple story with full sentence ~ 3-4 words
  • Telling own name
  • Understand questions like, ‘what’, ‘when, ‘where’, dan ‘how’

4 year

  • Understand certain concepts, like colors and size
  • Can tell object’s function
  • Use junction words, like “and”, “with”
  • Produce consonants ~ 90% correctly

5 year

  • Narrate story with longer sentences, ~ 5 words
  • Use complex junctions words, like “later”, “or”, dan “but”’
  • Follow complex commands
  • Adult-like speech and language

(Source : Speech Theraphy Poster, MOH)

What is Speech Sound Disorder?

Many parents confused whether their child is having speech sound disorder or not. Just like physical development, children will turn his/her body frst, then crawl, walk, before they could run. Same thing goes with speech development.

Speech sound disorder is the ‘error’ that happen within developmental age. It includes articulation and also phonological errors.

Children is supposed to master speech sounds when they reach certain age.

Here is a general guideline about when sounds should be acquired and mastered.



36 months

/n/, /m/, /p/, /h/, /t/

40-44 months

/f/, /w/, /ng/, /b/, /g/

48 months

/s/, /j/, /d/

48+ months

/r/, /l/, /sh/, /ch/, /z/, /v/, /j/, /th/

Phonological processes

Processes that disappear by age 3



Unstresses syllable deletion

telefon – tepon
(syllable ‘le’ is deleted (unstressed))

Final consonant deletion

dam – da
(final consonant ‘m’ is deleted)

Consonant assimilation

 kasut – atut
(s – t (influences by other consonant))


makan – mamam
(syllable ‘ma’ is repeated twice)

Velar Fronting
(backing sounds like ‘k’ dan ‘g’ are substituted with sounds made in the front)

kaki – tati
(k – t (front sound))

Processes persisting after 3 years



Cluster Reduction(a consonant in the cluster is omitted)
plag pag
(consonant ‘l’ is omitted)
Epenthasis (a vowel is misplaced or inserted in a word)
klinik kelinik
(vocal ‘e’ is inserted)
Gliding ( ‘l’ dan ‘r’ are replaced by ‘w’)
bola bowa
(l w)
Vocalization (consonants are replaced by vowelsl)
jatuh ayuh
(consonant ‘t’ vokal ‘y’ (i) )
Stopping (fricative sounds are replaced by stops)
sup tup
(s t)

By the age of 5, or by age 7, these processes should be resolved. Phonological processes should stop and child’s speech will become more adult-like.

Other guidelines that can be followed are:

  • By 2 years old, a child’s speech is normally 50% intelligible to the parents
  • By 3 years old, a child’s speech is normally 90% intelligible to the parents
  • By 3 years old, a child’s speech is normally 50% intelligible to the strangers
  • By 4 years old, a child’s speech is normally 100% intelligible to the strangers

What causes speech sound disorders?

Some speech sound errors can result from :

  • Low level of speech and language
  • Neurological disorders, e.g: accident
  • Oromotor problems
  • Nasality problem
  • Cleft lip/palate
  • Tongue-tie

Should i be worried?

There are no worries if the speech and language level are up to chldren’s age. If not, you should get further treatment to professional needed.

What should i do if there is speech sound disorders?

  • Refer to professional needed, such as Speech Language Therapist (SLT) to assess child’s problem. Get the referral letter from the government clinic or general practitioner(GP) for SLT’s assessment.
  • Give good language stimulation. Avoid using childish accent. Talk to children using correct pronounciation so that children will not confuse correct vs uncorrect ones.


  1. Heyman, N. (2012). When your toddler is unintelligible. Dipetik September 4, 2012, dari http://nikkiheyman.co.za/when-you-toddler-is-unintelligible/
  2. American Speech Language Hearing Association. (2012). Speech Sound Disorders: Articulation and Phonological Processes. Washington, D.C.:Author. Dipetik September 4, 2012, dari http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/speechsounddisorders.htm
  3. Super Duper Publications (2004).What Are Phonological Processes (Number  66).Dipetik 4 September, 2012, dari http://superduperinc.com/
  4. Piccini, R.M. (2001). Phonological Processes (Number 23). Dipetik September 4, 2012, dari http://superduperinc.com/


Last Reviewed : 28 August 2020
Writer / Translator : Faizah bt. Rahim
Accreditor : Zaidi bin Ya’acob
Reviewer : Nadwah bt. Onwi