Did you Hear?

There are new artic norms available!

adolescent adult beautiful blur

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Anyone who has read here before knows my love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with articulation norms. I’ve posted about them a few times before. They’re arbitrary. They’re misread. And they are misleading.

We all get told in our various programs which “norm” to believe in. Some like the Iowa-Nebraska norms. Others prefer Sander’s norms.

One would think articulation standards would be just that…standard. However, when you look at the norms, you can see some are based on single-word clarity (like we talk in single words), some are based with 50% accuracy where others are based on 100% accuracy. The only thing the norms have in common is 1) they are confusing and 2) they are old.

I was glad to see we may finally have a balancing act and potentially a new set of norms (that will hopefully provide clarity not murkiness to the situation).

Children’s Consonant Acquisition in 27 Languages: A cross-Linguistic Review, by Sharynne McLeod and Kathryn Crowe was posted in the AJSLP 9/2018. This research was a review of existing research to look at the acquisition of consonant phonemes across 27 languages.

Bottom line: “Combining data from 27 languages, most of the world’s consonants were acquired by 5;0 years; months old. By 5;0, children produced at least 93% of consonants correctly. Plosives, nasals, and nonpulmonic consonants (e.g., clicks) were acquired earlier than trills, flaps, fricatives, and affricates. Most labial, pharyngeal, and posterior lingual consonants were acquired earlier than consonants with anterior tongue placement.”

Absolute bottom line: “Children across the world acquire consonants at a young age. Five-year-old children have acquired most consonants within their ambient language; however, individual variability should be considered.”

The authors created a handy graphic.

norms image

You can see here that /s/ should be considered as developed by age 4 with /r/ developed by age 5. This flows MUCH more with what I’ve seen in the real world.

By following these norms, we should no longer be waiting until age 8 to work on /r/ or /s/. No more waiting until the front permanent teeth come in…no more waiting until 3rd grade to work on /r/ words.

This makes sense when we consider the impact of early intervention. We KNOW getting services earlier is critical. We know it is less expensive to provide early intervention services than to “wait and see,” so WHY do we wait so darn long on articulation?

By the time most people work on /r/, the kid has had 6 years of bad habit AND they’re are hitting pre-pubescence and all the joy that brings. They are far more aware of being “different” and the social stigma associated with it. So why do we wait? Why do we set these kids up for such heartache? In reality, they should have been seen at least 2 years earlier when it was still “cool” to go to speech and habits weren’t so strong. (okay…I’ll get off my soapbox)

So…what do you think of these new norms? Are these something you think you can use to help kids get help earlier? Would you if you could? I know there are some of you who strongly believe in the wait and see because kids might grow out of sound errors…

Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts. Until then….Adventure on!


4 thoughts on “Did you Hear?

  1. Nice to hear from you Mary! I’m all for “a stitch in time saves nine”. The same goes for “dyslexia” (my soapbox) and many speech problems. It is far easier to break a short (in time) habit than a habit that has been practised for years!

    Somethng else about articulation: I have noticed a strange way of speaking where people sound correct when speaking but when you look at them their mouths seem to make very strange movements. Very difficult to describe. Then I came across a teenager who sucked a dummy nearly nonstop for a very long time (6 months – 6 years) while she was learning to talk. If you imagine someone talking with a dummy in his/her mouth, but without the dummy, you see these strange lip and tongue movements that serve no purpose. Have you any knowledge of this problem?

    • Hi Annemarie. I am familiar with the “sounds right looks odd” challenge you describe. It can be very disconcerting for listeners.

      My current take is, if I close my eyes and it SOUNDS right, I consider it right. But I do have to wonder if I’m possibly doing a disservice by not correcting those “odd” movements.

      I’d love to hear what other people think about this phenomenon. I suspect it happens fairly often given how many kids I anecdotally see talking around their pacifiers/soothers/dummies.

  2. Can I just say, “Amen,” to their paper and to your synopsis/review of it?!?! In my class, I teach/preach that, in practice, we “pushed out” the norms so sounds like /r/ and /s/ aren’t even targeted until a child is 6, 7, or even 8-years-old! That’s a misreading/misunderstanding/ misinterpreting of the norms, in my opinion. Their research and your summary illuminate how and why we have to understand the methodology of the research and be cautious in how it is applied to clinical practice. Thank you, Mary!

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