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How Do I Know If My Child Needs Speech Therapy?

Every child develops differently and at their own pace.  However, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has developed a set of standards that will guide you in determining if your child is on track with average developmental milestones.

The official charts can be found at this link:

In summary, your child may benefit from speech therapy if the following is true:

  If during the first year of life your child interacts very little with others such as through smiling or eye contact.

  During 3-12 months your child does not make any babbling or cooing noises, gestures or participates in active play with others.

  If between 12-18 months your child is not saying any words, using gestures, pointing or attempting to actively communicate verbally or nonverbally.

  If between 18-24 months you are not seeing any increase in vocabulary and are regularly having a hard time understanding your child. You may not be seeing complete sentences yet but your child should be putting some words together.

  If by 2-4 years old your child still has a very limited vocabulary, is not putting words together or is not understanding simple instructions, it is highly recommended you seek out a speech therapist.

The earlier you begin the speech therapy process the better your child’s chance at a quick and successful outcome.

What is the difference between speech and language?

Speech and language are often used interchangeably but there are differences. It is possible to have delays in one area and not another.

Speech is the working together of articulation, voice and fluency. Articulation involves the way our lips, tongue and mouth move to create sounds. Voice is the use of breath and vocal instruments to create sound. Fluency is the rhythm of sound and disorders typically include stuttering or stammering.

Language is made up of speaking, understanding, reading and writing. Language involves the meaning of words, how to combine words and what communication is appropriate for certain situations. Receptive language is understanding what others say while expressive language is communicating to others through sounds and gestures.

Speech Development

Speech and language are fundamental building blocks of a child’s ability to understand the world around them. Language development is closely linked to social and literacy development. Proper speech and language development will build the foundation for learning to read and write.

From infancy, there are ways you can support your child’s speech and language development. This includes:

  • Reading books
  • Communicating with your child about what you are doing
  • Responding back to your child’s attempts at communication
  • Using gestures and sounds

If your family speaks more than one language, encourage your child to communicate in both languages.

Communication allows your child to express their feelings, build relationships and learn about the world around them.

The Stages of Language Development

3-12 Months

Beginning at three months, your child will begin to express themselves through coos, smiles and laughs.  Babbling begins at around 4-6 months – specifically with sounds like “ba”. Following babbles is when your baby begins to hold “conversations” with you using sounds but not distinguishable words.  Your child may begin using first words around 12 months of age.

If your child does not seem to be developing within these general guidelines, reach out to a Speech Therapist for an evaluation.

12-18 Months

From one year of age children may begin using words and correctly associating them with meaning – such as “mama” or “dada”. Vocabulary will continue to increase, however your child will be able to understand more than they can communicate.  Your child should be able to follow simple commands such as “Come here” or “Stop that”.

18 Months – 2 Years

Starting around a year and a half children may begin putting two words together.  You will be able to understand most of what your child is saying although those not close to the child may not be able to. Your child will be able to understand most of what you communicate.

2- 3 Years

At this age your child will most likely be speaking in short sentences of 3-4 words.  Not all the words your child says will be correct but this will be improving.  People not within the child’s family should be able to understand most of what the child is saying.

3-5 Years

Your child’s imagination is growing and so is their vocabulary!  Communication will include discussion about thoughts, feelings and questions about how the world works.  There will be some basic understanding of grammar based on learning how sentence structure works through adult communication.

5-8 Years

Your child will be creating more complex sentences, using more words, and understand how language structure works. He or she will be able to create stories with different types of sentences.  They should be able to hold conversations with adults.

This overview of language development is just that – an overview. Children develop at different rates and you know your child better than anyone.  However to give your child the best chance at success it’s imperative to address any potential delays as soon as possible. If you have any concerns about your child’s speech or language development contact a registered Speech Therapist for an individualized evaluation.