Help! I can't understand my toddler.
Is it time for speech therapy?
When children first start using language, they use word approximations and will likely use phonological processes (patterns of sound errors that typically developing children use to simplify speech as they are learning to talk). This means that ball may be produced as “bah,” or doggie may be produced as “doddie.” This is a normal part of development. Lots of words may sound similar. While “bah” is commonly used for ball, it can also be used to express bubble or blue. Not all sounds have to be produced to be considered a true word.
As children grow and develop their speech skills, these simplified patterns in speech are extinguished and words will be produced correctly. A child will be identified as having a speech disorder, specifically a phonological disorder, when these patterns of sound errors persist. Many parents seek out speech therapy because it is difficult to understand their child or because they have noticed that their child is not producing words at a developmentally appropriate rate.
"I absolutely love Jessie with Rogers Bridge Pediatrics. I am fortunate to have had her for my first son, and now my second son as well. I have seen a positive dramatic difference since we started going to therapy. My son is talking now, which is great. I am grateful for Jessie and the company." — Kristi
How do you know when you should seek help from a speech language pathologist? Speech Language Pathologists use developmental milestones and standardized tests to determine if a child has a speech or language delay. There are specific developmental milestones for speech and language acquisition that provide a timeframe for when skills should be mastered. A delay in meeting milestones may indicate that a child has speech or language delay. A speech therapist can identify these delays and help you make a decision about appropriate interventions.
Here are some milestones to look for:
18 Months to 24 Months:
Children should have 50 words at 18 months. The child may use a lot of jargon, words that are difficult for others to understand, and will likely only be understood about 25% of the time by their parents. Between 18-24 months a child’s vocabulary should grow from 50 words to 200 words. At 24 months, they should be understood 50-75% of the time by their parents and at least 50% of the time by unfamiliar listeners. Children are expected to produce p, m, h, n, w, and b at this point in their development.
24 Months to 36 Months:
A child should have 200 words at 24 months and use two-word phrases consistently. They are understood by their parents 50-75% of the time and at least 50% of the time by unfamiliar listeners. At 36 months, a child should have a 300-word vocabulary and use three-word combinations consistently. They should be 100% understood by their parents and at least 75% by unfamiliar listeners. In addition to the sounds mentioned earlier, children should also produce k, g, d, t, ng, f, and y.
36 Months to 48 Months:
Children should be 100% intelligible by familiar and unfamiliar listeners. There may still be some sound error productions, but most phonological processes should be eliminated at this point. At 48 months, a child should have a vocabulary of more than 1,000 words and should easily form sentences containing 4-5 words. In addition to the sounds that were listed above, a child should now be producing r, l, s, ch, sh, and z correctly.
This is an abbreviated description of a few speech and language milestones to look for as your child develops. If your child is not meeting their developmental milestones or has not met a speech, language, or feeding milestone within the specified timeframe, please call us for a free phone consultation. We will help you determine if a speech therapy evaluation is appropriate for your child.
Bowen, C. (2011). Table1: Intelligibility. Retrieved from http://www.speech-language-therapy.com/ on 8/28/2021.