Does My Child Need Speech?

Not sure how your child is progressing? Here is a helpful guide of the developmental milestones for speech and language. This list is by no means exhaustive. It's simply a snapshot of several factors to look for as you try to determine if your child is on track...

Milestones - Birth to 3 Years


First 3 Months

- Becomes startled at loud noises

- Is soothed by calm, gentle voices

- Likes to cuddle and enjoys being held

- Cried, gurgles, grunts, says “ah”

- Has strong muscles in cheeks and tongue

4 to 6 Months

- Tries to “talk” to you

- Enjoys interacting with you and smiles at you

- Establishes eye contact with mother

- Watches your face with interest when you talk

- Coos and squeals for attention

- Has a distinctive cry when hungry

- Laughs during play

- Repeats some sounds often

6 to 12 Months

- Babbles using a variety of sounds (i.e., baba, dada, nana)

- Begins to use jargon (babbling that sounds like real talking)

- Uses speech intentionally for the first time

- Uses gestures to communicate (waving bye, pointing)

- Tries to sing along with radio or TV

- Laughs and may imitate cough

- Protests, requests, and “comments”, with gestures and vocalizations

- Understands some common words when used with gestures (i.e., “bye-bye”, “up”, “give me”, and own name)

- Responds to own name

- Understands “no”

- Recognizes words for common objects

12 to 18 Months

- Uses 3-10 words, primarily nouns

- Expresses wants by using gestures and vocalizations

- Nods “yes” and shakes head for “no”

- Understands simple questions/statements (i.e., “Where is your nose?”, “Give me…”)

- Recognizes pictures of familiar people

- Enjoys rhythm and likes to “dance” to music

- Plays by him/herself

18 to 24 Months

- Says some 2-word sentences such as “more eat”, “all gone”, “me go”

- Asks for a cookie or toy

- Pronouns emerge (i.e., me, mine)

- Asks questions (i.e., “go bye-bye?”, “Where mommy?”)

- Uses 50-100+ words

- Understands “where is mommy/daddy?”

- Understands more words than can speak/say

- Understands 300+ words

- Enjoys listening to stories

- Follows two-step commands (i.e., “Get the ball and put it on the table.”)

- Knows 5 body parts

- Speech is understood 25-50% of the time

2 to 3 Years

- Combines words in 3-4 word sentences (i.e., “Me do it.”)

- Uses 50-250 words

- Uses action verbs (i.e., “go”)

- Answers simple questions about objects (i.e., “What’s your name?”, “Which one is the big doll?”)

- Understands 500-900 words

- Understands concepts such as one/all, on/off, big/little, up/down

- Points to pictures in a book when named

- Speech is understood 50-75% of the time

- Uses consonants (p, b, m, n, h, w) correctly

- Uses vowels correctly

- Occasionally leaves out ending consonants

- Frequently eliminates medial consonants

- Frequently eliminates or replaces final consonants

Milestones - 3 to 12 Years


3 to 4 Years

- Tells first and last name

- Tells a short story (i.e., two kids played blocks)

- Gives directions such as “Fix this for me.”

- Asks many questions (i.e., what, where, why)

- Expresses feelings (i.e., happy, sad)

- Consistently uses plurals, possessives, verbs

- Uses regular past tense verbs (“jumped”)

- Uses 4-5 word sentences

- Understands questions about a picture story (i.e., “Where did the dog go?”)

- Understands 1,200-2,000 words or more

- Uses 800-1500 words or more

- Follows 3-step directions

- Plays in groups

- Speech is 80% intelligible

- Understands past and future

- Sequences 2 events in order

4 to 5 Years

- Describes objects and events

- Can show you “top”, “bottom”, and several colors

- Uses 900-2000 words or more

- Communicates easily with peers and adults

- Uses 8-10 word sentences

- Uses grammatically correct sentences

- Understands 2,800 or more words

- Answers questions regarding object function (i.e. “What do you do with a spoon?”)

- Answers complex “wh” questions

- Demonstrates complex role plays

- Shows interest in group activity 

- Plays simple games

- Emergence of segmenting words into syllables

- Speech is 100% intelligible

5 to 6 Years

- Expressive vocabulary of approximately 2,000-3,000 words

- Uses almost all adult forms and structures, with occasional errors

- Tells stories, asks questions, exchanges information

- Tells imaginative tales and familiar stories

- Can answer telephone and carry on logical conversation

- Names days of the week in order

- Understands approximately 13,000 words

- Follows 3-part directions

- Asks how questions

- Uses past tense and future tense appropriately

- Uses conjunctions

- Names opposites

6 to 7 Years

- Names some letters, numbers, and currencies

- Sequences numbers

- Understands left and right

- Engages in conversations

- Has a receptive vocabulary of 20,000 words or more

- Average expressive vocabulary is 5,000 words or more

- Uses 6 word sentences or more

- Understands most concepts of time

- Uses most morphological markers appropriately

- Recites the alphabet

- Counts to 100 by rote

- Narratives are true “stories” with central focus, high resolution point, and resolution

7 to 9 Years

- A few errors in noun phrases (“much bricks”) persist

- Literate language for academic participation develops

- Articulation is mostly error-free

- Some difficulty with complex words may persist (aluminum)

- Phonological knowledge is used in spelling

- Stories contain complete episodes with internal goals, motivations, and reactions of characters; some multiple-episode stories appear

- Language is used to establish and maintain social exchanges

- Increased perspective-taking allows for more successful persuasion

- Provide conversational repairs by defining terms or giving background information

- Begins to understand jokes and riddles based on sound similarities

- Word definitions include synonyms and categories

- Some words understood to have multiple meanings

- Capacity for production of figurative language emerges

- School introduces new words not encountered in conversation

9 to 12 Years

- Syntax used in school text is more complex than that used in oral language

- Use of word order variations increases in writing (i.e., “Around the house we put a fence.”)

- Metacognitive skills emerge

- Morphophonological knowledge develops and is used in spelling

- Stories include complex, embedded, and interactive episodes

- Understand jokes and riddles based on spoken ambiguity

- Vocabulary used in school text is more abstract and specific than that used in conversation

- Students are expected to acquire new information from written texts

- Can explain relationships between meanings of multiple meaning words

- Understands most common idioms

Information compiled by CA Speech-Language Hearing Association Dist.; Better Hearing and Speech Month committee (1997) from a variety of sources which include ASHA (1983); Shipley & McAfee (1993); Lippke, Diekey, Solmar, and Soder (1997); and Owens (1996); Chapman (2000); Nippold (1998); Westby (1999); Miller (1981); Weiss, Gordon, and Lillywhite (1987).