When should my child start talking?
Is my child saying enough words?
The first 3 years of life, when the brain is developing and maturing, is the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills. These skills develop best in a world that is rich with sounds, sights, and consistent exposure to the speech and language of others. Social interaction is the foundation of language development, if your child does not pay attention to other people, respond to sounds, music, games or moving toys, it could be a warning sign of a possible speech delay.
There appear to be critical periods for speech and language development in infants and young children when the brain is best able to absorb language. If these critical periods are allowed to pass without exposure to language, it will be more difficult to learn. There is a wide range of research that states that the critical period is from infancy through just before puberty to fully develop language. It becomes much more difficult for children to acquire new and full language skills after puberty. This is why early intervention is important.
Children who have trouble understanding what others say (receptive language) or difficulty sharing their thoughts (expressive language) may have a language disorder. Specific language impairment (SLI) is a language disorder that delays the mastery of language skills. Some children with SLI may not begin to talk until their third or fourth year.
Children who have trouble producing speech sounds correctly or who hesitate/stutter when talking may have a speech disorder. Apraxia of speech is a speech disorder that makes it difficult to put sounds and syllables together in the correct order to form words (Please refer to stuttering section for more details).
Typical Speech Development
|3 months||Coos, starts to smile|
|4- 6months||Babbles using sounds starting with p, b, m|
|7-11 months||Babbles using groups of sounds (tata, upup, bibi)|
|12 months||Has one or two words (hi, dog, Dada, Mama), uses gestures (waving or holding arms up)|
|12-24 months||Uses some one or two word questions, puts two words together, and uses many different sounds|
|24-36 months||Uses two or three word phrases, uses k, g, f, t, d and n sounds, names objects to ask for them|
|36-48 months||Answers who, what, where, and why questions, uses sentences with four or more words|
|48-60 months||Names letters and numbers, can tell stories with details, says most sounds correctly, communicates easily with children and adults|
This chart is based upon How Does Your Child Hear and Talk?, courtesy of the American Speech–Language–Hearing Association
If your child is not meeting the above milestones at the correct age, this may be a red flag, or warning of a speech delay. It may be necessary to be evaluated by the appropriate health professional, a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP). The following red flags would necessitate a speech evaluation:
• No babbling by 9 months
• No first words by 15 months
• No consistent words by 18 months
• No word combinations by 24 months
• Slowed or stagnant speech development
• Problems understanding your child’s speech at 24 months; strangers having problems understanding your child’s speech by 36 months.
• Not showing an interest in communicating
• Excessive drooling
• Problems with sucking, chewing or swallowing
• Problems with control and coordination of lips, tongue, and jaw
• Stuttering that causes child embarrassment, frustration or difficulty with peers
• Poor memory skills by the time your child reaches kindergarten (age 5-6). Your child may have difficulty learning colors, numbers, shapes, or the alphabet.
• Failure to respond normally, such as not responding when spoken to. This may include signs that child does not hear well, such as reacting to loud noises.
• A sudden loss of speech and language skills. Loss of abilities at any age should be addressed immediately
• Not speaking clearly or well by age 3
Below is a worksheet adapted from the Language Development Survey, please take time to take the survey. Compare the findings to the above developmental chart and identify any red flags. If you are concerned about the results of the survey please contact for an speech and language evaluation.
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