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Speech and Language for Children

When a person is unable to produce speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with his or her voice, then he or she has a speech disorder. Difficulty pronouncing sounds or articulation disorders, and stuttering are examples of speech disorders.

When a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings completely (expressive language), then he or she has a language disorder.  Sometimes the problem is related to another condition such as hearing loss, developmental delay, or autism.  As your child ages and his or her speech/language develops, the signs and symptoms you should look for will also change.

If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, take a look at our developmental benchmarks:

Early Years

  • Can your child respond to choice, simple where and familiar who questions?
  • Can your child follow 2-part commands that are not routine directions given without gestures?
  • Can your child ask basic questions with correct inflection, e.g. Daddy gone?
  • Can your child combine two meaningful words, e.g. “play ball”?
  • Can you understand at least 50% of your child’s speech, even with mistakes, e.g. “wabbit” for “rabbit”?
  • Does your child enjoy playing alongside other children?

Preschool Years

  • Can your child follow multi-step directions including those that are unrelated?
  • Can your child understand basic time words, e.g. yesterday-today-tomorrow?
  • Is your child beginning to understand and use specific vocabulary at 3 years and more often at 4 years?
  • Is your child using category words, e.g. toys, and emotion state words, e.g. sad, happy?
  • Is your child, by 4, asking questions to get information and listening to your answer?
  • Does your child have a few true friendships?
  • Is your child beginning to pretend to be other people, e.g. fireman?
  • Can you understand 90% of your child’s speech even with mistakes?

Early School Years

  • Is your child embarrassed by or concerned about their ability to communicate clearly?
  • Does your child understand concepts used in directions that you and their teacher use, e.g. before, if… then?
  • Can your child listen to a complete short book/chapter of their choice, answer questions about the events, and retell favorite parts in their own words?
  • Does your child have adequate vocabulary to talk about their day/experiences in several sequential sentences with details?
  • Can they understand another child’s feelings and point of view in both play and conversation?

When to See a Speech/Language Pathologist

  • Average length of sentence does not at least equal age of child
  • Above 2 years does not say 50 words, depends on gestures to communicate basic wants/needs
  • Above 2 years uses mostly vowel sounds
  • Above 3 years conversation is mainly repeating what is said
  • Above 3 years in bilingual home has difficulty in both languages
  • Above 4 years has not developed social language
  • Above 4 years can’t answer questions about their day
  • Above 5 years sentence structure is noticeably faulty
  • Above 5 years does not use dramatic play with dialogue and commentary
  • Above 6 years has not mastered all speech sounds
  • Above 6 years answers questions with related information rather than giving specific and complete responses
  • At any age if there are concerns by the parent, doctor, teacher regarding the child’s speech and/or language


Related pages:

Child speech/language Speech/Language Evaluation and Therapy


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