How to Recognize Early Signs of Speech and Language Delays

Early speech and language
Image via Mindi Stavish

As a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist, I have the pleasure of evaluating and treating children of all ages.  One of my favorite ages to work with is toddlers and their families.  Helping and watching a child develop early language skills is exciting.  

Expressive language is the use of words to communicate what a person wants and thinks. The other part of language is receptive language, or the ability to understand a message that is heard, read, or interpreted from body language. 

During the second year of life, a toddler’s language skills rapidly expand. Here is a list of language skills you should be seeing:

language development 12 to 18 months
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language development 18-24 months
Image via Mindi Stavish

The English language is not an easy language to master. Ask any ESL (English as a Second Language) student. With approximately 40 sounds (phonemes) for a 26 letter alphabet, it’s amazing how any child masters the language in their first few years of life. The development of speech sounds is predictable from child to child. Like any other developmental milestone there is a wide range of normal between children. Speech-Language Pathologists use developmental speech sound norms to determine if a child is making developmental or non-developmental sound errors.

In terms of speech sound development there are several different charts to follow. I find the following guidelines to be the easiest to understand.

Image via Mindi Stavish

How well a child is understood is known as their speech intelligibility.  Speech intelligibility is defined as how well others understand what is spoken. An easier way to think about your child’s speech development is to estimate his/her intelligibility. As a general guideline your child should be evaluated by a Speech-Language Pathologist if by …
Age 1 your child’s speech is NOT intelligible 25% of the time
Age 2 your child’s speech is NOT intelligible 50% of the time
Age 3 your child’s speech is NOT intelligible 75% of the time
Age 4 your child’s speech is NOT intelligible 100% of the time

If you are concerned about your child’s expressive or receptive language skills  or speech sounds contact a Speech-Langauge Pathologist to have your child evaluated. It is NEVER to early to seek out an evaluation!

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How to Recognize Early Signs of Speech and Language Delays

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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