When it comes to your child’s speech and language development, many parents find themselves asking, “what’s normal?”
Children progress at different rates, and determining whether your child is just a late bloomer or needs professional help isn’t always easy. We put together this informational guide to help you better understand speech delay, common signs and symptoms, how it’s treated, and more.
Speech and language skills begin with the slightest cooing of an infant. As the months pass, toddlers eventually begin to babble which soon progresses into one of the most joyous moments for a parent - their child’s first understandable words. A typical 2-year-old can say about 50 words and speak in two- and three-word sentences. By age 3, their vocabulary increases to as many as 1,000 words.
A speech delay is when a toddler doesn’t meet these typical speech milestones. It is a common developmental problem that affects as many as 10% of preschool children.
Because all children progress on their own timeline, it can be different for parents to tell whether their child is just a late talker (and will soon be chatting a million miles a minute), or whether there’s a serious problem that needs professional treatment.
This is why assessment and diagnosis by a certified speech-language pathologist (SLP) is so important. Speech delays can be effectively treated, and research has shown that earlier interventions lead to better outcomes.
Yes. While speech delays and language delays are often confused and difficult for untrained professionals to tell apart, there are important differences.
Speech is the physical act of producing sounds and saying words. A child with a speech delay is often difficult to understand. While they may use words and phrases to express ideas, they often have trouble forming the correct sounds. The inability to interpret your child can be frustrating and disheartening for a new parent.
Conversely, a toddler with a language delay may make the correct sounds and pronounce some words, but they can’t form phrases or sentences that make sense.
Some children have either a speech delay or language delay, and some have both. Distinguishing between the two is important as it will inform treatment decisions. If you think your child may have a speech or language delay, it’s important to seek help from a speech language pathologist. They’re the most qualified professional to administer an evaluation and diagnosis.
As mentioned, it’s hard for parents to know if their child is taking a bit longer to reach a speech or language milestone, or if there's a deeper problem that needs attention. The table below highlights common signs and symptoms by age group of speech delays.
By 12 months
By 18 months
By 24 months
By 36 months
If your child might have a problem, it's important to see a healthcare provider or speech-language pathologist. During the initial evaluation, they will ask about your toddler’s speech and language capabilities, as well as other developmental milestones and behaviors to make the appropriate diagnosis.
More specifically, your SLP will evaluate:
Based on the results, the SLP may recommend speech therapy for your child.
A speech delay may mean that your child’s timetable is a little different and they’ll eventually catch up. But speech or language delays can also tell something about your child’s overall physical and intellectual development. Here are some common underlying causes of speech delays.
Numerous studies show parents play an essential role in helping their child reach their speech and language goals. Parents spend the most time with their child, and considering children learn to communicate during everyday activities and conversations, no one is better positioned to help improve their speech delay.
Speech-language pathologists should empower parents to take a more active role in their child’s progress, teaching them strategies, cues, and corrections that can be practiced daily. Additionally, Expressable has developed several instructional videos with helpful at-home exercises to get started.
Expressable matches families with a certified speech therapist trained to effectively evaluate and treat speech delays and disorders. All therapy is delivered online via face-to-face video conferencing
Your child’s age and development will influence how your speech therapist interacts with them through these video chat capabilities.
Ages 0-3: Parents work directly with their speech therapist to learn cues and at-home strategies so they can confidently practice with their child outside the session and improve their communication. For more information on the importance of parental involvement in their child’s speech therapy, click here.
Ages 3-6: Parents attend video sessions alongside their child so they both learn valuable skills from their speech therapist. Reinforcing these lessons outside the session will continue to promote at-home skill building.
Ages 7 and Up: Most children attend video sessions independently but parents are kept in the loop with updates and tips during each session.
Expressable is an online speech therapy practice committed to expanding access to quality services for everyone with a communication disorder. Expressable has pioneered a parent-focused care model that uses technology and education to integrate speech therapy techniques into children’s daily lives, improving outcomes and experiences.