Milestones and Red Flags for Speech and Language Development

Milestones and Red Flags for Speech and Language Development

Milestones and Red Flags for Speech and Language Development

Milestones and Red Flags for Speech and Language Development

Milestones and Red Flags for Speech and Language Development

Milestones and Red Flags for Speech and Language Development

Milestones and Red Flags for Speech and Language Development

May 30, 2019

We all know that babies and children develop at their own pace. However, it feels like there is nothing worse when your own child seems to be lagging behind. While you may be able to hold a full-blown conversation with one toddler, another might have a very limited vocabulary. Sometimes these huge differences in development can trigger cause for concern when there really isn’t any need to worry.


Understanding what is considered ‘normal’ speech and language development at each age can be enormously beneficial in helping settle parental concerns. On the flip side, it can also aid parents in determining if their little one might need a little help developing speech and language skills.

The milestones for speech and language development

Not meeting some or any of these can be considered red flags in a child’s growth and development, and it is recommended that you arrange for an assessment of your child’s speech and language skills by a qualified and experienced speech-language pathologist as soon as possible.


By 12 months of age your child should:

-        Babble with changes in tone

-        Gesture, such as waving to say goodbye or shaking their head to signify ‘no’

-        Respond to their name

-        Say one word

-        Attempt to communicate with you when he/she needs help with something


By 15 months of age your child should:

-        Understand and respond to terms such as ‘no’ and ‘up’

-        Use at least 5 words

-        Point to objects and pictures when asked to identify something e.g. ‘where’s the sheep’

-        Point to things that he/she finds interesting


By 18 months of age your child should:

-        Understand simple commands such as ‘don’t touch’

-        Use at least 20 single words regularly

-        Respond with a word or a gesture to a simple question such as ‘where is your coat’ or ‘do you want a drink’

-        Point to two or three major body parts


By 24 months of age your child should:

-        Say at least 100 words

-        Be consistently joining two or more words together, e.g. ‘go walk’ or ‘shoes on’

-        Imitate actions and words, such as in a nursery rhyme

-        Pretend with toys, e.g. making cups of tea, cuddling a doll, pretending to walk a toy dog etc


By 30 months of age your child should:

-        Say at least 300 words

-        Use ‘action’ words such as run, eat, fall down, etc

-        Use some grammar, e.g. plurals ‘two doggies’ or present progressive “running”


By 3-4 years of age your child should:

-        Ask questions

-        Use whole sentences when speaking

-        Tell a simple story

-        Be understood at least 75% of the time by unfamiliar listeners (by age 3)

-        Be understood at least 90% of the time by unfamiliar listeners (by age 4)

Other red flags for speech and language developmental delay

Any of the following issues or behaviors can also be considered red flags for potential speech and language development delay and should be mentioned to a professional. These include:

-        Excessive drooling

-        Problems with sucking, chewing or swallowing

-        Problems with coordination control of the lips, tongue and jaw

-        Stuttering

-        Poor memory skills, such as recalling numbers, colors or the alphabet

-        Not responding when spoken to as this could indicate hearing problems/loss

-        Hard to understand

-        Did not babble prior to age 1

-        Does not ask questions

-        Has difficulty using language in a range of social situations and maintaining relationships

-        Has difficulty following directions, understanding, staying organized


Different types of speech and language delay or disorders

If your child isn’t meeting the milestones listed above, your speech-language pathologist will evaluate your child and identify whether your child has a speech delay/disorder and/or a language delay/disorder.  A delay is when a child is developing typically, but is significantly behind peers in development. A disorder occurs when a child is not developing typically—he/she may have holes in their overall speech or language development.


Speech delay/disorder: A child has a speech delay/disorder when he/she can speak but is difficult to understand.


Language delay/disorder: A child with a language delay/disorder may be able to speak clearly but may have difficulty with one or more of the following: has difficulty putting words together to form a sentence, difficulty organizing thoughts to tell a story, difficulty with grammar, doesn’t have a large vocabulary, has difficulty understanding and following directions.


Some children may also have difficulty with understanding implied meaning, reading social cues, understanding social norms, and have difficulty with social communication.


Once your speech-language pathologist has evaluated your child,  a personalized therapy plan will be created to help develop your child’s skills. The earlier a speech and/or language delay is identified, the sooner therapy to help enhance your child’s ability can begin. Therapy will help to reduce any significant gaps between a child and the child’s peers, and give him/her the confidence he/she needs at school.


If you would like more information about speech and language delay, including red flags, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experienced team who will be delighted to assist you.


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