The ABC’s of Early Speech & Language Development: A-E {Part 1 of 5}

Welcome to the first installment of the five day series The ABC’s of Early Speech & Language Development: A series brought to you from the Kid Blogging Network (KBN)! Today I will be covering topics that begin with letters A to E. Check back every day this week for a new installment in this series. 

The ABCs of Early Speech & Lang Dev part one

A is for Articulation & Phonology

You may have NO idea what these terms mean, or maybe you have been told that your child has an articuation or phonological delay…but do you really know what that means? These terms can get confusing! Here are the definitions of these very important terms and links to where you can read more about each topic.

Articulation is the physical ability to move the tongue, lips, jaw and palate (known as the articulators) to produce individual speech sounds which we call phonemes. For example, to articulate the /b/ sound, we need to inhale, then while exhaling we need to turn our voice on, bring our slightly tensed lips together to stop and build up the airflow, and then release the airflow by parting our lips. You can read more about articulation development and delays HERE.

Phonology: Phonology is the study of how speech sounds (i.e. phonemes) are organized and used in a language. This includes the study of the individual sounds of a language (phonemes), their patterns, how they are learned (phonological development) and how they work and go together.

Phonological Processes: They are the typical patterns of how a child simplifies his speech (so “normal” speech sound errors) as he learn to speak. A child is not born being able to produce all the sounds and sound patterns of his/her language. As a child is learning how to speak English, he will simplify sounds and sound patterns. For example, a young child will simplify the word “bottle” to something like “baba.” A young child may also say “goggie” for “doggie,” “sue” for “shoe,” or “nail” for “snail.” Phonological processes, then, are the normal patterns of simplification all children use as they are learning to speak. You can read more about phonological processes HERE.

Phonological Delay/Disorder: A phonological delay refers to when a child continues to use phonological processes (sound simplifications, see phonological processes defined below) in his speech beyond the age at which it is no longer developmentally appropriate. You can read more about phonological development and disorders HERE.

B is for Babbling

What is babbling? Why is it important? When should my child start to babble?

Babbling: Babbling refers to sounds and syllables an infant begins stringing together between 4-12 months of age. Babbling is referred to as a prelinguistic skill: meaning a skill that happens prior to the development of language and speech. There are actually three different types of babbling: Marginal, Reduplicated, and Nonreduplicated. You can read more about babbling HERE.

C is for Communication

Communication  is the process of conveying a message or meaning to establish a shared understanding to others. You don’t need speech or a shared language to communicate. How? Let’s say you decide on a trip to Rome, but you don’t speak one word of Italian. You get off your plane, and you want to pick up your rental car, but you can’t read any of the signs. You find a local, but he doesn’t speak English. What can you do to communicate to this person that you want to know where the rental cars are? There are a couple ways. One, you could use your hands and gestures as if you are driving a car. Another way, could be to draw a picture of a car. This could help the local Roman help you find your way to the rental cars.

So in my example above, you are communicating without using speech or a shared language (i.e. English or Italian). You are using gestures or pictures to communicate!

Communication is always the first goal.

D is for Delay or Disorder

These terms can also be very confusing for parents just entering into the world of speech therapy. Does your child have a delay or a disorder? Do these terms mean the same thing, or are they different?

Delay or Disorder: Technically, a delay would refer to a child whose development is following the “typical or normal patterns” but she is developing those skills at a slower rate than her peers. A disorder then, would be classified as a child whose development is NOT following the “typical or normal” patterns (i.e. abnormally). However, some people use these terms interchangeably or two professionals may not totally agree on whether a child’s development is delayed or disordered. But typically, a delay=normal development at a slower rate than expected and disorder=abnormal development.

E is for Every Day MOMENTS

When I am working with parents of little ones, I often get asked when they should be working on speech and language practice. The answer? All day, every day. Language is not learned in a bubble…it is not confined to only during speech time. Language is learned and practiced in every day moments. Bath time. Dressing. Snack time. Reading. Dinner time. Playing. At the park, at the grocery store, in the bathroom….these are the moments children are learning language! My friend over at Little Stories wrote a great post on this and you can check it out HERE.

You can head over and read the other parts of this series by clicking the links below


I am SO excited to share with you some other fantastic ABC series from the Kids Blogging Network (KBN). We have five themes areas and each day I will be sharing a different theme for you. Today I am sharing the Literacy and Language ABC Series’. Head on over and check some of them out!

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    • Katie says

      Paul, wow a SLP major and a mother to 6 BOYS!?!?!?! You are super mama!!! Good luck in your studies and I hope I continue to offer info you find valuable!

    • Katie says

      Allison thank you for the feedback! I knew that this ABC series would contain a LOT of info and I worked hard to try to make it not too overwhelming. Thanks for the insight!

  1. says

    What a great collection of information. One of my master’s courses was taught by SLP. It was the hardest class I ever took. I was blown away at the amount of information you speech people have to learn! This post really simplified some of that complex information and made it very user friendly! It’s very helpful to me as I have a kid with a speech delay and I’m trying to remember all the I forgot from the course! 😉

    • Katie says

      Jackie how cool you got to take a course by an SLP! Yes, our graduate programs are pretty intense (not to mention the two years of undergrad). We not only have to know and understand speech and language development in children, but also speech and language disorders that occur in adults, like from strokes and brain injuries. It is a LOT! :) But also an awesome career. So glad you are enjoying my series!