Most children start using their first words between 12-16 months of age. Some children started using words at 9 months. Other children start to talk at 18 months. Like everything else, children vary in the age that they start talking. Does it matter if a child isn’t talking at 2 years? When a child isn’t talking at 2 years then it’s time to take a closer look at what is happening.
It helps parents to know what is ‘normal’ when they are concerned about their child’s speech and language development.
Understand the difference between speech and language
- Speech is how clearly we pronounce the sounds when we talk
- Language is how we understand what others communicate to us. It also refers to how we communicate to others. It includes all types of communication— verbal, nonverbal, and written.
We expect speech and language to develop in a particular order
Speech and language skills develop in order.
Children develop speech skills when they learn to babble. Then they learn to make specific sounds. Their babble starts to sound like words. After that, they develop more sounds and others can understand all their words.
Children learn to understand language when they recognise that certain words respond to particular objects. Then they understand simple instructions in everyday activities. Eventually they follow longer instructions and answer harder questions. They learn to communicate meaning to by pointing then using words. Eventually they build up a large vocabulary of words and put these into longer sentences.
For more details on speech and language development read “Is my child communicating properly?”
What is a speech or language delay?
Children with a speech delay have difficulty speaking clearly, or they can’t pronounce some sounds correctly.
Children with a language delay can have difficulty understanding what others mean when they are talking. They can have difficulty using words and sentences to get their meaning across to others.
Speech and language delays are two separate parts of communication development. Some children have difficulty in both areas.
What Are the Signs of a Speech or Language Delay?
It is hard for parents to know when to be worried about their child’s speech and language. Here are some general guidelines. Contact your GP or a Speech Pathologist if:
- 12 months – they aren’t using gestures, such as pointing or waving bye-bye
- 18 months – still using gestures rather than sounds to communicate
- 18 months – not imitating words
- 18 months – not following very simple familiar instructions in their daily routine
- 2 years – can imitate words after you but don’t spontaneously use words or short phrases
- 2 years – use the same sounds or words repeatedly but don’t use a variety of words or phrases to communicate
- 2 years – communicate only their needs and wants and don’t communicate for other reasons
- 2 years – can’t follow one step directions
- 3 years – is difficult to parents to understand their child’s words
- 3 years – the child can’t use longer phrases or sentences
- 4 years – difficult for strangers to understand the child’s words
- By 4 years old, a child should be mostly understood, even by people who don’t know the child.
What Causes Speech or Language Delays?
There are many reasons why a speech or language delay occurs. This can include:
- A hearing problem or repeated ear infections
- An oral motor issue such as difficulty co-ordinating mouth movements or even a tongue tie
- Some children are later to develop speech and language with no specific reason
- Some children may have a condition such as autism or developmental dealy
How Are Speech or Language Delays Diagnosed?
Identifying speech and language delays early are critical. The outcome for the child is better when speech and language delays are identified early. You can find out more about the assessment process at ‘Speech Pathology Assessments”
How Does Speech Pathology Help?
Our Speech Pathologists work to improve the underlying reasons why a child has a delay. The intervention builds the foundation of skills that children need to communicate. We also work with the parents to ensure that they understand why their child has a dealy and can follow through at home.
What Can Parents Do?
Parental involvement is an important part of helping kids who have a speech or language concern. If your 2 year old isn’t talking then the best advice is to speak to your GP or ring a Speech Pathologist. We can give you advice that is specific to your child. Some children don’t need an assessment but we can tell you what to do to promote communication. Other children will need an assessment and it is best not to ‘wait and see’ in this case.
Our Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy clinic in Bondi Junction
OneOnOne Children’s Therapy is a Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy clinic located in Bondi Junction in Sydney. If you want to know how we can help your child then call us on (02) 80657837 or email us.