When Should I Be Concerned? (Speech Question 6 of 7)

Dorothy Dougherty, MA, provides speech therapy for children just learning to speak, and she is the author of How to Talk to Your Baby. In this series, she answers the questions that new parents most frequently ask her.

When should I be concerned about my child’s speech and language development?

It is often puzzling to parents, and even to professionals, why some child do not begin to talk within a reasonable amount of time. Since many factors can affect language learning, either slowing it down or enhancing it, children who are not quite on schedule may not necessarily be delayed, but instead may be following their own individual timetable. Although there is a wide range in what is considered "normal," especially in a baby’s second year of life, most experts will agree that your baby’s understanding and expression of the language should be growing on a continuous basis. There is certainly cause to be concerned if a child suddenly stops talking or doesn’t seem to understand or be learning new words.

To roughly assess your child’s language development, use the following questions as a guide.

  • Does my eight-to-twelve-month-old child look at people who talk to her, and show an interest and intention to communicate?

  • Does my twelve-to-fifteen-month-old children have a wide range of speech sounds in her babbling and margining and express one or two meaningful words?

  • Does she follow simple requests, such as "Look at the dog," and understand simple questions, such as "Do you want some juice?"

  • Does my eighteen-month-old child say at least ten words?

  • Does my eighteen-to-twenty-four-month-old child follow simple, one-step requests? Does my two-year-old child have a vocabulary of fifty or more clear words or word approximations, and is she learning to join two words together?

  • Does she ask simple questions, and respond to simple questions with "yes" and "no"?

  • Does my two and a half year old child understand simple stories and conversations and use three words together, such as "my big blocks"?

  • Does my three-year-old child ask and answer " where", "what", and "who" questions?

  • Does she start conversations and use four words and sentences to talk and make requests?

  • Can she follow two step directions, such as "Get the doll and put it in the box?"

If your child does not meet the aforementioned conditions within reasonable time limits, or you have any questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language skills; it is always wise to seek a professional consultation.

Question #1 -- Early Communication

Question #2 -- Learning the Meaning of Words

Question #3 -- Growing Up Bilingual

Question #4 -- Stuttering

Question #5 -- Sound Deadlines

Question #7 -- Professional Speech Therapy