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The Most Essential Things To Know About Speech Delay That You Will Ever Get

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

It became common nowadays to see 'children not talking' as compared to before. The advancement of technology reduces the real time interaction between people, which is one of the causes of the stated phenomenon.

Most parents will freak out when the child is not able to talk, make sentences and/or converse like their peers especially when the time comes to enter kindergarten or primary school.

Some of them believe the stigma that children will grow out of it. How do you know that for sure? Yes, all children will go through the same stages as their speech and language develops. However, it is hard to know exactly when your child will get to each stage. In that case, it is better to take action rather than wait if you see your child is not progressing.

Table of contents

  1. What Causes Speech Delay?

  2. How to Keep Track My Child's Speech and Language Development?

  3. When Should Parents be Concerned?

  4. What Should I Expect in Speech Therapy?

  5. Who is a ‘Speech-Language Therapist’?

Not all children with speech delay have the same cause and issue. Some children are very active and some are more passive. There are also children who could say a few words and then suddenly the words disappeared.

Speech delay has four contributing factors:

  1. Structural e.g. hearing impairment, cleft and muscle tone.

  2. Biological or genetic and developmental disorders e.g. Down syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

  3. Neurological e.g. cerebral palsy, epilepsy and stroke.

  4. Environmental e.g. lack of interaction, parent-child interaction or too much screen time.

A speech and language developmental milestone chart is an important tool to keep track of your child’s development. You can use the chart to monitor your child’s current skills at each stage of age. Yes, every child is different but the difference will not be significant (i.e. the gap of your child’s speech and language skills must be within the range of 6 months as compared to his or her peers). Below is a chart of normal speech and language development that you can refer to:

Speech and Language Developmental Milestones


  • Cries

2-3 months

  • Coos in response to you

  • Smiles

6 months

  • Babbles

  • Turns and looks at new sounds

8 months

  • Responds to name

  • Pats self in mirror

10 months

  • Shouts to attract attention

  • Says a syllable repeatedly e.g. /da da da da/

12 months

  • Says 1-2 words

  • Recognises name

  • Imitates familiar sounds

  • Points to objects

12-17 months

  • Understands simple instructions

  • Imitates familiar words

  • Understands “no"

  • Uses “mama” “dada” and a few other words

18 months

  • Uses 10-20 words including names

  • Starts to combine 2 words e.g. “all gone,” “bye-bye mama,”

  • Uses words to make wants known “up”, “all done” or “more”

  • Knows body parts

2 years old

  • Says 2-3 word sentences

  • Knows more than 50 words

  • Asking “what’s this” and “where’s my”

  • Vocabulary is growing

  • Identifies body parts

  • Names pictures in books

  • Forms some plurals by adding “s”

2 ½ years old

  • Gives first name

  • Calls self “me” instead of name

  • Combines nouns and verbs e.g. "teddy sleep", "eat cookie"

  • Has a 450 word vocabulary

  • Uses short sentences

  • Matches 3-4 colours

  • Knows big and little

  • Likes to hear the same story repeated

3 years old

  • Can tell a story

  • Sentence length of 3-4 words e.g. "I want ball", "give me big one"

  • Vocabulary of about 1000 words

  • Knows last name, name of street and several nursery rhymes

  • Can sing songs

4 years

  • Sentence length of 4-5 words e.g. "this present is for Lisa"

  • Uses past tense e.g. "I went to the zoo", "we played toys"

  • Identifies colours, shapes

  • Asks many questions like “why?” and “who?”

  • Can speak of imaginary conditions “I hope”

  • Uses following sounds correctly: b, d, f, g, h, m, n, ng, t, w, y (as in yes)

Most children who are not yet able to speak or utter words have a limited vocabulary (for example, they cannot follow instructions given at his or her age level [e.g. 2 years = 2-step commands e.g. “go up and take some clothes” (the instructions should be given orally without assistance like mom pointing to the object, but also should not be limited to routine)].

If the child does not meet the speech and language developmental milestone, you may have reason for concern. By 18 months of age, a child is supposed to produce at least 20 meaningful words such as /mom/, /papa/, /milk/, /ball/ etc. By 24 months, if the child has fewer than 100 words and is unable to combine words into 2- or 3-word phrases such as /soft toy/ and /I see you/, he or she might need speech therapy.

What Should I Expect in Speech Therapy?

In the beginning of a speech therapy session, Speech-Language Therapists will evaluate your child to determine his or her language level. The evaluation includes the pre-verbal skills such as eye contact, joint attention, play skills, imitation skills, matching skills and turn taking; the receptive language skills (comprehension); the expressive language skills (production) and the oral-motor examination.

They will also explain the findings and give suggestions of what you can do to help your child at home. The follow up sessions will focus on sets of skills that need to be improved in order for the child to catch up to their correct language level. What usually happens in the session is children who are suspected to have a speech delay will have a language level that is lower than his or her age. For example, a 4-year-old child chronologically might have language skills that are approximately 2;0 to 2;6 years old.

Who is a ‘Speech-Language Therapist’?

‘Speech-Language Therapists’ (SLTs) also known as Speech-Language Pathologists are an allied health care professional or an expert of communication. SLTs work with people of all ages, from babies to adults. SLTs treat many types of communication, feeding and swallowing problems including common cases like speech delay or speech sound disorders.

In order for a person to be qualified as SLTs, they should have an academic background or at least a Bachelor’s degree related to the area of speech sciences, speech pathology or communication science disorders. The degree includes extensive clinical educational hours and contact hours with clients during the clinical years.

“If you have any concern regarding your child’s speech and language skills, act now rather than waiting.”


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