Development of speech sounds normally occurs during the first 7 to 8 years of life.  Sounds that are often still developing during the primary school years include 'r', 'l', 's', 'z', 'th', and sometimes others.  In most cases, errors on 1 or 2 sounds in kindergarten and grade 1, and even into grade 2 and 3 are part of a normal developmental process.  Inconsistent use of the sounds may indicate that the child is in the process of learning them.  These misarticulations may sometimes result in difficulty understanding a child's message, although they usually do not consistently interfere with communcation.  Normal, develpmental speech sound errors may sometimes temporarily interfere with learning reading and spelling using a phonic approach.  Speech sound errors become a concern when they consistently and severely interfere with communication (a child is often difficult to understand)  and/or when they persist beyond the normal developmental range.  If there is a concern about speech sound errors, a first step is to try some classroom and home interventions.  If there is a concern about speech that may result in a referral for a special education speech/language assessment (classroom interventions are not successful), you will need documented evidence of the nature, frequency and length of the classroom interventions tried.  It is recommended that teachers discuss the concern with parents before trying prereferral interventions.

If after 1 to 2 months, there is little of no improvement and the speech sound errors seriously interfere with communication, and/or the student is old enough that he/she should have learned the sound, a referral may  be appropriate.  Referral should also accur if there is known medical basis (e.g. cleft palate or cerebral palsy) for the sound errors.

Prepared by S Penner  10/10/93