Call Us Today! 781-335-6663

What are Phonological Processes?

Phonological processes are natural patterns in children's speech development. Understanding these patterns can help parents understand their child’s speech as they develop. Monitoring these patterns and seeking advice when needed can support a child's speech development journey. In this post, we'll delve into the world of phonological processes, exploring what they are, the types that exist, and how therapy at South Shore Therapies can help guide children along the path to improved speech intelligibility. 




Phonological processes are natural patterns through which young children simplify the sounds in words as part of their speech development. These adjustments make it easier for them to communicate until they're capable of producing clearer speech. A common example includes simplifying the word “stop” to “top” by omitting the initial “s” sound. Over time, as children's linguistic skills advance, these phonological processes should naturally disappear.

Recognizing and understanding these phonological patterns can help parents and caregivers comprehend their child's speech development trajectory and anticipate the improvements in clarity and confidence in communication as the child grows. Below, we outline some prevalent phonological processes, segmented into three primary categories: syllable structure changes, substitutions, and assimilations, alongside the typical ages by which elimination is expected.


Syllable Structure Changes

  • Cluster Reduction: Simplifying a consonant cluster to a single sound (e.g., “poon” for “spoon”). Resolves around age 4 (without /S/) and age 5 (with /S/).
  • Final Consonant Deletion: Omitting the final consonant in words (e.g., “cu” for “cup”). Typically resolves by age 3.
  • Initial Consonant Deletion: Uncommon and may indicate a delay if the initial consonant is omitted (e.g., “up” for “cup”). Consultation is recommended.
  • Weak Syllable Deletion: Omitting an unstressed syllable within a word (e.g., “nana” for “banana”). Resolves by age 4.


  • Backing and Fronting: Replacing sounds based on their production location in the mouth. Backing is uncommon and may require therapy. Fronting resolves by age 3.5.
  • Gliding: Replacing liquids (l, r) with glide sounds (w, y). This resolves by age 6.
  • Stopping: Replacing fricatives or affricates with stop sounds. Resolution ages vary by sound, generally between ages 3 and 5.


  • Changes in sound production to make them more similar to other sounds within the word (e.g., “bub” for “bus”). Assimilation processes typically conclude by age 3.

By keeping informed about these patterns and consulting with a speech-language pathologist when these patterns persist passed the age of natural suppression, caregivers can better support their child’s speech development journey.

What is a Phonological Disorder?

When the use of a phonology speech sound persists beyond the age-appropriate time, it may indicate a phonological disorder—a type of speech sound disorder.

When Should I See a Speech Pathologist?

If your child is showing any of the following phonological disorders—predictable rule-based errors, (e.g., fronting, stopping, and final consonant deletion) that affect more than one sound—a visit to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is recommended. Early intervention can be critical in addressing phonological disorders and supporting clear communication.

Treatment for Phonological Disorders

A speech and language pathologist is trained to identify and treat phonological disorder with your children. At South Shore Therapies we emphasize individualized approaches to address your child's unique needs and help them reach their optimal potential.

Involving the Family

Incorporating family members into the therapy process is an important pillar for progress. At South Shore Therapies, we emphasize the importance of family training and home carry over to support skill acquisition. This may involve practicing exercises or activities provided by your therapist at home, which reinforces the therapeutic efforts and can accelerate progress.

Cutting-Edge Tools

South Shore Therapies employs evidenced based practices and resources to make the therapy process engaging and effective. With a variety of tools, games and activities, your child's time in speech therapy will be positive, playful productive, and fun.

Reach Out to South Shore Therapies Today

Phonological processes are a natural aspect of speech development in children. Understanding these intricate paths and processes are fundamental to determine presence of disorder. Understanding these intricate paths to clear speech is vital for parents and caregivers. Recognizing the signs of a phonological disorder can lead to early intervention and improved outcomes.

South Shore Therapies offers expertise, compassion, and dedication to children with phonological processing disorders. If you have concerns about your child's speech development, don't hesitate to reach out. Your proactive step today can pave the way for your child's confident communication tomorrow.

If you're in the Hingham, Pembroke, or Norwood areas of Massachusetts, call 781-335-6663 to schedule an intake call to learn how South Shore Therapies can help. Together, we can unlock the potential for clear and effective communication in your child, making sure their voice is heard accurately and with confidence. Visit the South Shore Therapies website for more information on our services and how we can support your child's speech journey.


Leave a comment

Copyright © 2024 · Powered by LOCALiQ