Listening and Speaking
A resource about children and young people with moderate communication needs
Speech is the spoken form of language. It is the physical or motor act of placing the articulators (tongue, teeth, lips and palate) in various positions to produce sound. The process of speech development begins with the coos, cries and sucking of the newborn child. It then steadily progresses through the years of early childhood, so that by the time the student enters school he or she can make hundreds of sound combinations to express words. Speech development is normally completed by the end of Year 3 (age 7 or 8).
The physical act of speaking is known as articulation. Speech is a complex, "whole body" process with many physical factors playing a role. These include respiration and breath support, body positioning, muscle tone, jaw strength, palate positioning, control and movement, tongue and lip positioning, and vocal fold functioning (Strode and Chamberlain 1997).
Successful speech development is a combination of these physical factors and their inter-relationship with language development. Students need to have words and ideas to articulate. They also need to have the opportunities to practise their talking with their families, peers and others to develop and refine their articulation.
With these factors in place, mild to moderate difficulties with speech will resolve over time.