Speech and Language

Children accomplish so much during their first couple of years. In a matter of months, they learn to crawl, walk, talk, and socialize with others. Most of the skills your child learns come with an expected age range. For instance, most babies begin to crawl between 6 and 10 months, and the vast majority are accomplished walkers by 15 months.

The same milestones exist for speech. Your child should say their first word by age 1, and they should know about 20 words by 18 months. If your child is behind these targets, don’t hit the panic button. Your child may just be slow in developing their language skills and could benefit from working with a speech therapist.

On speech and language

Speech therapy can help your child develop their speech and language skills. Although speech and language overlap, the two are slightly different when it comes to the details. Children may have difficulty with speaking and not language, language but not speaking, or both.


Speech involves articulation, voice, and fluency. All three aspects of speech must come together for effective verbal skills. Articulation deals with the way our lips, tongue, and mouth move to produce certain sounds. A child who struggles with articulation may have trouble with “r” or “th” sounds. Voice is the use of the breath and vocal folds to make sounds. While your child doesn’t need to be loud, they should be able to speak at a consistently understandable volume. Fluency is the rhythm of speech. Children who struggle with fluency may stutter or stammer.


Language refers to the words we use and how we use them to share ideas and get what we want. Language includes speaking, understanding, reading, and writing. A child with a language disorder may have trouble with one or more of these skills.

Language includes:

  • What words mean. Some words have more than one meaning. For example, “star” can be a bright object in the sky or someone famous.
  • How to make new words. For example, we can say “friend,” “friendly,” or “unfriendly” and mean something different.
  • How to put words together. For example, in English we say, “Peg walked to the new store” instead of “Peg walk store new.”
  • What we should say at different times. For example, we might be polite and say, “Would you mind moving your foot?” But, if the person does not move, we may say, “Get off my foot!”

Having trouble understanding what others say is a receptive language disorder. Having problems sharing our thoughts, ideas, and feelings is an expressive language disorder. 

When it’s time to see a speech therapist

Every child develops speech and language skills at their own pace, and the milestones for development are wide. That being said, if you notice that some of the following signs apply to your child, it may be time for speech therapy:

Number of words 

Your child uses less than 20 words at 18 months and less than 50 words by age 2.

Number of sounds

Your child only uses a few sounds to pronounce all words. This goes back to articulation.


By age 2, most children understand more than 300 words. If your child has trouble understanding simple sentences, such as “get your coat,” it may be time to see a speech therapist.

Social situations

Your child talks infrequently and has trouble using language socially.

Unclear or immature speech

Your 2-year-old should be able to communicate at an acceptable volume and combine different words.



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