Speech sounds are the sounds we use in words. If we use the right sounds in the right order then people can understand what we are saying. It can take a long time to learn how to make the right sounds. 

We think of  speech sounds being different from the alphabet, they are the “pure” sounds we hear rather than the letter name such as the sound “b” rather than the letter name “Bee”. Some children make mistakes which we would expect for a child of their age. These will get better without extra help.

Think of learning sounds as building a wall. Listening is the cement in the wall that enables the sound production (bricks) to be laid.  You need to make sure the cement (listening) and bricks (sound production) are established at each level before moving on to the next level for example:


Songs and rhymes

Phrases and sentences

Complex words such as caterpillar

Short words (consonant/vowel consonant) for example, cup

Joining consonants and vowels e.g. car

Saying single sounds such as k or c

Listening for sounds (discrimination) such as k or c versus t

Strategies and advice

There are many ways to support speech development. These include:

  • phase out dummies and bottles as soon as possible
  • be face to face when you talk
  • encourage the child to look at you
  • slow down your own speech
  • focus on what your child says rather than how it’s said
  • model back the correct sounds but don’t expect your child to repeat it, for example, if your child says “tat” you could say, “that’s right, it’s a cat”
  • confirm what you do understand
  • acknowledge your child’s feelings, for example if they are frustrated
  • avoid overcorrecting
  • ensure your child is face watching when an adult says a word as this will ensure they  can see how the  sound and words are formed
  • ensure your child is face watching when an adult says a word as this will ensure he can see how the sound and words are formed.


Top tips video

Sounds fun video

Supporting phonological awareness video

Minimal pairs – a therapy approach for children with a phonological delay or disorder video

Cued articulation video

A guide to generalising speech sounds video

Useful websites

  • National Literacy Trust website - has resources and information for parents, early years settings and schools to promote language and literacy development.
  • Speech and Language website - for information relating to speech, language and communication needs.
  • AFASIC - this website supports parents and represents children and young people with speech, language and communication needs.