Everything You Need You Know About Toddlers and Speech Sound Disorders
Updated: Aug 12
Can toddlers have a speech sound disorder?
What are the three types of speech sound disorders?
How do I identify which children need speech sound therapy?
How do I approach speech sound therapy with a child this young?
1. Can toddlers have a speech sound disorder?
Yes! We all have these children on our caseload - very young (between 2-4 years old) and very unintelligible. Or very young, but they hardly have any words at all!
Is it a language issue or a speech issue? That’s the million-dollar question!
There is definitely a subset of toddlers whose communication difficulties are more a result of a speech sound disorder than a language delay or disorder.
These cases are very common and there isn't a ton of available guidance on how to tackle therapy with these children. This is what inspired us to create a comprehensive course on toddlers and speech sound disorders. More on that below!
As SLPs, our job is to identify which children need support with speech sound development so that we can provide early intervention as needed.
2. What are the three types of speech sound disorders?
A speech sound disorder could be phonologically based, motor based, or a mix of both! See the chart for a description of each type.
A thorough assessment will help you determine which of these three a child is presenting with.
It’s important to know which type of speech sound disorder a child is presenting with because the diagnosis will inform which intervention approach you to choose.
3. How do I identify which children need speech sound therapy?
It's helpful to start off with a solid understanding of speech sound development in young children. We need to know what is expected so that we can recognize when a child is presenting with speech that is delayed or disordered.
Refer to the chart below for a quick overview of toddler speech development.
Now that we have reviewed typical toddler speech development, we can talk about which toddlers are more likely to need intervention when it comes to how they produce speech sounds. The list below outlines 9 possible indicators that a child may need speech sound therapy.
Signs a Toddler May Need Speech Sound Therapy
limited consonant repertoire
whole classes of sounds missing
demonstrates a sound preference
distorted vowels or consonants
stuck using single syllable utterances
retention of phonological patterns that should have been resolved
unexpected errors/patterns of errors
fewer than 5 consonant sounds by 24 months
productions are mainly vowels with limited use of other syllable shapes
very few consistent words or word approximations
This list is not exhaustive and some of these may indicate a language delay or disorder. It is important to look at the whole child and do a thorough assessment of their speech sound system in order to identify which children need support in this area.
4. How do I approach speech sound therapy with a child this young?
Pick an intervention approach that is suitable for this age group and utilize cueing and other therapeutic techniques to practice target words in a play-based therapy session! Don't worry- we tell you exactly how to do all of this in the Early & Bright course on Speech Sound Disorders in Early Intervention. :)
We cover identification, assessment, and treatment for children ages 2-4. You'll learn what interventions are available for this age group and how to choose an approach that is individualized for each child. You will learn the ins and outs of each approach along with specific guidance for how to select targets for your therapy sessions. You'll also learn exactly how to design a play-based therapy session that is effective, fun, and engaging for toddlers and preschoolers.
The course includes 6 video modules and a 40+ page workbook to help you feel confident working with these little ones in speech therapy! Click HERE to join learn more and join the course!
Any questions on this topic or about this course? Let us know! We're here to help.
-Suzanne and Laura