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A Brief Introduction to Speech and Language Development and Disorders in Young Children

http://onparspeech.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/onPar_salbp01.pnghttp://onparspeech.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/onPar_salbp01.pngA Brief Introduction to Speech and Language Development and Disorders in Young Children

In this blog entry, we will cover a brief introduction of speech and language development and disorders in children.

What are the major components of language?

There are six major components of language and a child with a speech and language impairment may have difficulty in one or more of these domains:

Other more general terms that you may have heard include the following:

What is typical language development for young children?

There are many charts from a variety of sources which outline what to expect in the different language domains at various chronological ages. A useful chart can be found on ASHA.ORG here. There are several charts available from multiple sources, with many variations between them for the different domains of language. However, certain commonalities do exist.

It is typically noted that:
First words occur around one year of age:

1 Year

Two-word combinations occur around two years of age:

2 Years

And three word combinations occur around three years of age:

3 Years

Parents can expect to understand approximately:

25% of their child’s speech by 18 Months:
50 to 75% at 24 Months of age:
75 to 100% at 36 months of age:

It can be expected that a child has twenty words at 18 months of age and 100 words at 24 months of age. When you look at developmental charts for speech and language, it is extremely important that you keep in mind that there is some variation in which children follow developmental norms and that children may not master all items at each age level until they reach the upper age in each range. It is also important to keep in mind that just because your child has not mastered one skill in a particular age range, it does not mean that he or she has a disorder.

How do children develop language? What can I do to help my child?

Most infants have an innate ability to learn language. They are “wired” to learn language and they don’t need flashcards, computer programs, etc. A child’s main tool for acquiring language is interacting with their parents. Model, model, model but do not quiz your child or make them imitate you. Provide your child with language rich experiences during everyday life. Some of these strategies will be discussed in an upcoming post ”Language Facilitation in Young Children.”. There are many resources available which provide excellent examples of how to facilitate development during routines and playtime, such as The Cow Says Moo: Ten Tips to Teach Toddlers to Talk or My Toddler Talks: Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child’s Language Development.

An indication that your child may have a speech and / or language delay would be not having met these milestones:

20 words by 18 months:
100 words by 24 months:
Two word combinations by 24 months:

Other risk factors include that your child was quiet as an infant and has a history of ear infections. Your child may use a limited number of consonant sounds, limited use of gestures, and limited usage of verbs as compared with nouns. A family history of communication delays would also be an indicator.

What is a late talker?

A late talker is a child who is eighteen months or older who is using a limited number of spoken words for his or her age. Toddlers who are late talkers usually have a vocabulary of fewer than twenty words at eighteen months. Late talkers do not have other developmental delays. They have normal motor skills, play skills, thinking skills, and social skills. Late talkers do not necessarily have a speech and / or language disorder.
Some useful information regarding late talkers can be found at these sites:

When should I seek help?

Seek help if your child is two years or older and imitates speech but does not produce it spontaneously, can’t follow simple directions, has difficulty using language to communicate, has an unusual tone of voice, and is more difficult to understand than his or her peers. Do not wait and see. Speak to your pediatrician and have your child evaluated by a certified Speech Language Pathologist. When beginning this process make sure that your child’s hearing has been screened.

Keep an eye out for a blog entry I will be posting soon about specific ways to stimulate your child’s language development!


“Hillary has been a Speech and Language Pathologist for 17 years. She loves speech therapy, and loves working with kids.

— Hillary

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2 Comments on "A Brief Introduction to Speech and Language Development and Disorders in Young Children"

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Mama Bear

Hi Hillary,
What does it mean when a child speaks well at 18 months but by 24 months they stop talking?

Thank you.

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