Is my child a “late bloomer” or does he have a language delay? The stages a child passes through in the development of speech and language are consistent. However, the age when they hit these developmental milestones varies a lot. As a parent, you may be comparing your child to a sibling, or a same-aged peer.
Below are basic milestones for typical speech and language development:
- 6-9 months: Uses gestures (i.e. wave, clap, point) to precede spoken words, cries when parent leaves the room, vocalizes to get attention and engage with others, sounds include “m, n, t, b, p, y” and some vowels.
- 12-18 months: Uses 3- 20 words with an explosion of vocabulary around 18 months, enjoys sharing eye contact with a parent and can use one- to two-word sentences.
- 24 months: Is understood by others approximately 70 percent of the time, understands 500 words, uses 200 words, combines words into one- to two-word sentences (i.e. “no cookie,” “more cookie”), answers questions such as “where” and “what are you doing?”
- 36 months: Uses more than 500 words, is understood by others at least 80 percent of the time, may continue to have some errors in sound production, understands 1,200 words, begins asking questions of others and can understand more complex questions (i.e. “what do you do if you are hungry?”), uses three-word sentences and can engage in longer dialogues.
Factors such as the child’s inborn ability to learn language, the amount and kind of language the child hears daily, and how people respond to her communication attempts can slow down or speed up language development.
In addition, speech delays can occur for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Premature birth
- Hearing loss
- Neurological problems such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
- Apraxia of Speech
- Learning disabilities
As a parent you know your child best. If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, seek out a speech and language pathologist certified by the American Speech-Language- Hearing Association for a consultation, suggestions and/or evaluation. Your child’s pediatrician may be a good resource for you in finding someone. If your child is two years and nine months old, you can contact your public school to discuss your concerns. There are also various 0-3 programs available in the area.