At What Age Should My Child Be Talking?

At What Age Should My Child Be Talking?

I had an interesting experience last week. I was picking my kids up from my sister’s house when her in-laws pulled up with their children. When they got out of the car she introduced me as her sister speech therapist. She immediately began telling me how her, two year old, nephew wasn’t using any words yet and wanted me to tell his parents what was “wrong”. Talk about feeling put on the spot! I felt the father glaring at me as if to say, “Don’t you dare tell me there is anything wrong with my son.” So I proceeded cautiously explaining some reasons that have been commonly linked to delayed speech in children. In the end they felt they should call the local early intervention provider in their county for an evaluation. I ran into the mother of the child yesterday and she thanked me for talking to them. She said until they talked to me the father did not believe they needed to pursue help just yet.

This is what I told them:

  • By one year a child should be saying their first word.
  • By 18 months a child should be saying at least 20 words.
  • By two years a child should be saying at least 50 words and should be starting to put two words together.

For a more specific breakdown of these communication milestones read my post entitled “Important Communication Milestones”.

Here is a link to PBSparents.org with some more specifics about what the average child is both understanding and saying during these first months of life.

If your child hasn’t met these milestones there may be something that is inhibiting their development. I’ll address some of those reasons in a future post.

12 Comments

  1. Thanks for the information on the PBS website. It gave me a lot of extra information about where children should be at in their speech development at age one.

    This was a great idea to set up this website where people can get their questions answered about language development. Thanks!!

  2. I’m not sure if you’ll get this as your post was in 2007. I have a 3 year old boy who says most words clearly. When he gets excited he spills out gibberish for like 2 whole minutes and then looks like I should’ve understood everything. I also noticed his tongue twists a little when he does say words.

    The pediatrician said he shoud go for a speech evaluation. My insurance doesn’t cover this. Coworkers encouraged me to look at state / municipality early intervention. That’s for up to age 3. My child is 3 and 2 months old.

    What are the steps I should take/should he get evaluated. He’s fine socially, can hear, can play and interact. His speech is just not up to par.

    Thanks for any insight.

    Kelly

  3. Kelly,

    I would also recommend that you go for a speech evaluation. Contact your local school district. After three years old the local school district is in charge of providing speech services. Good luck! I hope you are able to get your questions answered and the services you need.

  4. Hey Heidi My daughter is about to be 2 years old in febuary rite now she is saying about 10 word and the words are not to understandable i go to the doctors an they tell me nothing is wrong i feel there something wrong what should i do where can i go

  5. Hi Katheline,

    By the age of 2 your daughter should be saying at least 50 words. I would recommend you call the local early intervention program for an evaluation. You can read my post on How to Find a Speech Pathologist in your area or you can search the listing for Early Intervention Programs in the United States for contact information. Good luck!

  6. Thanks Heidi for the informations it really helped alot

  7. hi, im wondering about my daughter she is about 2 1.2 will be three in july. she had well over 50 words and can say sentences but sometime arnt as clear . for example for tv shell go t-e or something along those lines . or shell skip like the first letter of a word or the end letter of a word .
    she say thinks like i want ilk pease ” i want milk please” or no ed ” no bed etc.. do you think this is something that is normal and will come or something i need to get look at ?>

  8. Hi Amy,

    It sounds like your daughter may be using some phonological processes to simplify her speech. Kids use these processes to make it easier for them as they try to imitate all the new sounds and words they are learning. It sounds like your daughter may be using the phonological processes final consonant deletion, which is deleting the final sound in a word, which is considered normal developmentally until she turns 3. It also sounds like she has initial consonant deletion in her speech, which is deleting the first sound in a word. The presence of initial consonant deletion is a little more concerning because it is not usually seen as a typical developmental process and is more often seen in kids with phonological delays. I would recommend having her evaluated. You may decide to take her in now or wait until she is 3 to see if she will correct some of these speech error patterns on her own. If by 3 she is still having difficulty and you haven’t had her evaluated I would definitely recommend you do so at that time.

    Hope this helps!
    Heidi

  9. My 6 years old neice might have a speech problem. I believe she might need some professional help. I don’t know how to tell the mother and father that the child needs speech therapy.
    @ 6 years old she should be able to speak fluently. She’s been in pre-school and is now in kindergarten. Yet my neice still speaks with slurs and babbles like a baby. Her speech is equilvelant to a 3 yr old.

  10. Hi Tiana,

    If she really is that delayed hopefully your neice’s teacher will recommend her for a speech evaluation. In a perfect world, kids with speech delays that are not identified before kindergarten will receive a speech evaluation when entering kindergarten and will hopefully get the help they need.

  11. Hi Heidi,
    My boyfriend has a three year old from a previous marriage (three years and two months at this time.) He can say about thirty or so words but few of them are clear. Also, he tries to put together two and three word sentences, but they are unintelligible and we spend the day guessing what he means, or just trying to learn his language. For example, we have translated that when he points to something and says “dee dee dee?” that means “what is this?”

    I have researched on the internet and told my boyfriend that the child should probably be evaluated by a speech therapist. He said that his ex-wife intended to do that once he turned three, because that is when her insurance would pay for it. After that landmark birthday, I asked him again and he said that she doesn’t think there is a problem. He waffles: some days he agrees with me and some days he agrees with her. I know it’s not really my place but I’m very concerned about this sweet kid who is a part of my life. Any suggestions?

  12. Hi Amy,
    Sorry for my delay in response. It sounds like you have a very delicate situation on your hands. I agree with you; the little boy should probably be evaluated by a certified SLP. The general rule of thumb with speech intelligibility based on the research available is that children should be about 50% intelligible in their speech by the age of 2 and 75% intelligible by the age of 3. I know you are concerned, so I would keep trying to talk with him about why you feel it is important. I don’t know this child so I can’t say that he definitely has a problem, but from what you have told me, I feel that your concerns are valid. If anything an evaluation would give you and his parents good information as to whether there is a definite problem or not. However if they still continue to waffle there are a few other avenues you could consider. Pediatricians usually keep an eye on speech development. Next time he has a doctor’s appointment ask his pediatrician about his speech and language development. Sometimes having another professional voice a concern might help in persuading the parents to take action. Finally, check with your local state or county early intervention program. If insurance is a concern this might be a good route to go because most evaluations are discounted or free. Early intervention service are offered for kids 0-3 as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.