speech and language development

Your Children's Speech Development Milestones by Year

Posted on
November 24, 2022
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Developmental milestones are classified as checkpoints for children as they grow. Milestones can be tracked through your child’s movements, behaviour, learning, play and communication. The CDC explains developmental milestones to be what most children, 75% or more, can do at a certain age and includes children's speech development.

Why is communication important?

Communication is key for one to thrive in life. Yet 8% of children have Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). This represents 1.4 million children and young people in the UK having difficulties speaking clearly, using and understanding language as well as interacting with others. On average 2 students in every class of 30 have DLD. Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) are unfortunately still under-diagnosed.

How does a child's speech develop?

The early years is a critical period for children's development. This is a period of rapid neurological development. Positively supporting young children's development during this time is essential. Researchers agree that interaction between adult and child and the environment to support it are crucial.

Children with communication difficulties in the early years can have difficulty learning and accessing the curriculum, as well as behavioural difficulties. 81% of children with emotional and behavioural disorders have significant unidentified communication needs. And good communication, language and literacy at a young age have the highest correlation with outcomes in school at seven years.

When can you start tracking your child’s development:

Communication starts from the moment your child is born. Week by week, month by month, your child can develop. From nonverbal communication milestones to first words. In the early stages the child may babble and smile, coo and cry, which are good indications that their communication skills are developing.

speech and language development
Your child's first 5 years

What are the 5 stages of speech development?

Your baby’s first year

Throughout the first year, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to closely note and monitor signs for ‘typical’ development. Some more noticeable than others. Being aware of the developmental communication milestones for your child is the first step in making an informed decision. Regarding whether or not a speech and language assessment is warranted.

Your child’s second year

After the first 12 months of a child’s life, language starts to develop more rapidly. A child should be able to produce single words by 12 months, while two word phrases are expected to be produced as the child is at the 24 month mark.

Your child’s third year

Your child is in the third phase of their life. Understanding 24-36 months communication milestones is important, as it's when carers will start to not only look at language development. You may start to focus more on your children's speech development and speech sound production.

Concerns will emerge when family members cannot understand what the child is attempting to say when producing their sentences. When a child’s ability to be intelligible or understood by familiar and unfamiliar listeners is reduced, an assessment can determine if a speech sound disorder is present.

Language development during this time starts to pick up. At this time, two words are produced together at the 24 month mark. As they progress from 24 to 36 months, parents and caregivers will often notice a language burst. Two word phrases will evolve into sentences. Vocabulary will expand rapidly. At 30 months, at least 50 words should be in the child’s vocabulary (the upper latter at 300). By 36 months, 3 word phrases are expected to be combined. Typically up to 1,000 words are in the child’s vocabulary. The types of sentences produced will not be mature, and it's expected that there will be grammatical errors.

Your child’s fourth year

When your child reaches 3 years of age, they could be interacting more with peers if they are in a setting with other children. If they're at home with their family, they're communicating their wants and needs more effectively through verbal communication to get their needs met. This is a critical time as many children who weren’t flagged in their earlier years of development for speech and language issues now are above the radar.

As language development continues to grow rapidly through different exposures, both inside and outside of the home, a word bank of about 1,000 words is anticipated. This vocabulary is now being incorporated into sentences that are expanded upon. 4-5 sentences will be common!

Your child’s fifth year

By 4 years old, many parents will get a bit more concerned about their children's speech development. During this 4 to 5 years, sound errors are more noticeable by family members and teachers. As language skills continue to become more mature, sentences become longer and more complex. So there is more room for error in sounds.

Sometimes, sound production contains errors that dominate words in sentences, which will cause the familiar and unfamiliar listener to second guess what the child is saying. This turns into a battle of asking the child to repeat what was said and in response frustration expressed by the child in the form of shutting down and not wanting to speak. Or in some cases as a form of opposition - making errors intentionally.

At this stage of speech and language development, sequential (order) concepts and temporal (time) concepts become a part of the child’s tangible understanding. This allows the child to understand words relating to time and sequence.

As language development continues to grow rapidly through different exposures both inside and outside of the home, a word bank of about 1,500 words is anticipated. These words are now being used in more complex sentences that incorporate more verbs/action words.

Please know it’s important to note:

Your child should have an updated audiological assessment or hearing screening to determine if an audiological impairment is present. This will show an impact on all milestones.

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