Should I worry that my grade-schooler mispronounces certain sounds?

Should I worry that my grade-schooler mispronounces certain sounds?

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That depends. Grade-schoolers still mangle three- or four-syllable words ("manimal" for "animal" or "pasghetti" for "spaghetti," for instance), and that's fine. And some still struggle with a few tricky consonant sounds, such as substituting "w" for "r" as in "wabbit" instead of "rabbit" or saying "f" instead of "th" as in "baf" instead of "bath." Those few exceptions aside, your child's speech should definitely be understandable by now. Most experts agree that a child should have the ability to pronounce most sounds by age 7 or 8.

If your child still has difficulty pronouncing many sounds, she could develop reading, comprehension, and spelling problems if the situation isn't addressed, and you should seek professional help; don't wait for someone at her school to contact you about her difficulties. In some cases, there may be a physical component to your child's talking troubles. Some tip-offs that she may not outgrow her pronunciation problems include drooling when she mispronounces words, or difficulty eating or swallowing. Talk to her pediatrician or with her teacher. Her school may refer you to an early speech and language intervention program (usually coordinated through the county or public school system) that will provide a free speech and language screening. Or her doctor can refer you to a private speech-language pathologist for an evaluation.

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