People cannot understand my child?!

You may be a parent who finds themselves constantly translating to others, what your child is saying. Should you be concerned? Your child may be getting frustrated at not being able to get their message across. When is this a problem?

Some children can be difficult to understand when in their early stages of developing their sound systems.

Most children are expected to say their first words between 12-18 months. Their single word vocabulary actively builds up until they are 2 years of age, at which time they are usually putting a couple of words together.

Typically parents/ carers are the ones who understand their child’s communication attempts as they are with them most of the time. Translating what your child is saying when he is 2 years of age; may occur more often than when they are 3 years of age. What should be observed, is that the overall clarity of a child’s speech steadily and consistently increases, from 18 months of age.

An approximate guide to keep in mind is the following;

18 months old

25% of what your child says should be understood by a third person (someone who is not with the child all the time).

2 years old

50- 75% of what your child says should be understood by a third person.

3 years old

75 – 100% of what your child says should be understood by a third person.

So what sounds develop when?

At 2 years, a variety of sounds are being used when speaking, typically; p, b, m, t, d, n, h, w

By 3 years the range of sounds they are using increases to also include sounds such as;  k, g, f, s, ng

By 4 years, children can say most sounds correctly; m, n, h, w, p, b, t, d, k, g, ng, f, y, s, z, ch, j, sh, l

Some general tips to apply include to;

  • Provide a good model – if your child has made an error with a word; do not push them to say it correctly. Ensure you repeat back that word a few times in a conversational way. E.g.If your child says; “Look at the gog!”  (Meaning to say “dog”); Your reply may be “Wow, look at the big dog! I like that dog. The dog has brown fur too!”
  • In the case that you cannot understand what your/ a child is telling you; repeat back words that you have understood, and reframe your question. E.g rather than saying “What?” or “say it again”, if you have understood one word e.g  “foot”, than you may reply “Foot.Did something happen to your foot?” Or ask them to show you (if they can) what they are communicating.

If you feel your child is not developing their sounds according to their age; certainly contacting a Speech Pathologist for a speech assessment  and professional advice is the way to go!



References include:





Previous post

Communication - What to expect from Birth to 12 months

Next post

Answering tricky questions!



Mother of three young children, and senior level Speech & Language Pathologist. Sonia founded a successful Sydney based private practice in 2006. She regularly presents community seminars, writes articles for parent magazines and does guest speaker gigs on community radio. Sonia enjoys writing, and hopes one day to be a published children's picture book author too!

No Comment

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *