Understanding Speech and Language Development in Children and Knowing When to Seek Treatment
A common concern we receive as pediatricians from parents of young children is whether or not their child’s speech and language are developing appropriately. Understanding a child who isn’t speaking clearly can be frustrating for not only the parent, but also the child. It can also be challenging when comparing children whose speech develops at different times. If the child is otherwise developing normally, many parents will hold off on seeking treatment. While unclear speech development can be a sign of hearing loss or other developmental delays, understanding language milestones can be a great help for parents in knowing when to seek early treatment.
- Vocalize by babbling, cooing and laughing
- Respond to voices without visual cues
By age one your child should:
- Able to say 1 or more words
- Able to understand simple instructions
- Able to respond to their name
By age two your child should:
- Have vocabulary of 50 words or more
- Combine two word simple sentences such as “daddy up.”
- Follow one step directions
- Have approximately 50% of what they say understood by a stranger
- Able to respond to simple questions, such as identifying body parts
By age three your child should:
- Combine three or more words into sentences
- Have improved comprehension (little versus big, under versus over
- Have approximately 75-90% of what they say understood by a stranger
It is important for parents to understand the difference between language and speech delays. A child with a speech delay may be able to understand what is being said, but has difficulty articulating a response, and vice versa.
If it is suspected that your child has a speech or language delay, the pediatrician will often recommend they see a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for an evaluation. The evaluation will include both indirect and direct testing. Indirect testing helps uncover how they communicate in real-life scenarios through informal conversation, whereas during direct testing, the child is asked a series of structured questions to measure how they respond.
Each well-child examination provides both parents and the pediatric provider an opportunity to understand how the child is developing physically, emotionally and mentally. If your child is due for their well-child examination, please call Rainbow Pediatrics to schedule their appointment today. For more parenting tips, visit the Rainbow Pediatrics blog.