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When Will My Child Start Talking?

Rogers Bridge » When Will My Child Start Talking?

As an early intervention speech language pathologist, I am typically one of the first people that evaluates and treats a child. Sometimes families are referred by their pediatrician and sometimes they have referred themselves. We are frequently asked, “When will my child start talking?” or “How long until my child talks?”


This is a tough question to answer because there are many factors to consider including and beyond possible diagnoses. 

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When a parent asks us to predict when their child will start talking, we show them the Communication Pyramid. The Communication Pyramid, as you can see in the figure below, shows what skills must be gained prior to expressive communication and shows us how skills build upon each other. If a child does not have the necessary foundational skills for expressive communication, those areas of deficit need to be addressed before they will begin to talk.

Communication Pyramid: shows what skills must be gained prior to expressive communication and shows us how skills build upon each other.

Communication Pyramid

  1. Preverbal and Early Interaction
    Preverbal and early interaction skills refer to a set of skills that are considered foundational and necessary for communication. These skills are usually obtained by 12 months of age. Since these are foundational skills, all other areas of communication build upon these skills.

    Preverbal skills are how a child communicates without using words. This includes using eye gaze, vocalizations, and gestures/pointing. Early interaction skills refer to joint attention, turn-taking, and cause and effect.


  2. Attention and Listening
    Attention and listening includes learning skills like waiting, listening, anticipation, and completing short tasks. But it also includes hearing and noticing what is going on around them and whether they are attending to what others are doing or paying attention to an interesting object. A child is more likely to connect a spoken word to an object if they have first noticed and analyzed the object first.

    Waiting and anticipation can be shown when a child is participating in familiar routines and activities. These skills usually come into play when a child is familiar with a routine and is starting to understand what comes next. For example,  after I wake up, I get my diaper changed. The child shows anticipation of this event by laying down and being compliant or they get a diaper and hand it to you.

    When attention and listening skills are achieved a child would be able to complete a short task like completing a puzzle.

  3.  Play
    There are many different types of play that gradually become more complicated. When we are working with young children, we eventually work up to play that involves turn-taking with others and participation well (social play).

    To have a good foundation, the child must have functional and relational play skills.  Functional play is when children use objects as they are meant to be used. For example, a ball is thrown or kicked, blocks are stacked, and books are opened and the pages are turned. Relational play involves children using objects towards themselves or doing simple pretend play. The child may pretend to eat something or pretend to be asleep.

  4. Understanding
    Understanding can also be explained as a child’s receptive language skills. Receptive language refers to the ability to understand. This entails following directions, understanding questions, identifying objects, and understanding spoken words. A child is unlikely to produce a word until they understand what that word means.

  5. Talking
    Expressive Language, or talking, is a child’s ability to communicate wants and needs verbally. To be able to accurately communicate with others, a child must first have a good vocabulary. Their vocabulary should include a variety of word types (pronouns, prepositions, verbs, adjectives, and nouns) so that they are able to build from single word utterances to more complex utterances easily.

    Having a good vocabulary and being able to use grammatically correct sentences is imperative for a child to communicate their wants/needs, questions, or thoughts clearly.

  6. Pragmatics
    Pragmatics refers to a variety of skills that are used during social interactions. Depending on the age of the child, pragmatic language can refer to collaborative play (playing with other children using turn-taking and sharing) to more complex understanding of social interactions. More complex social language includes understanding body language, idioms, and being able to take another person’s perspective.

  7. Speech Sounds
    The highest skill level on the communication pyramid is working on specific sounds or working on articulation skills. As your child develops, it is expected that their sound repertoire develops as well. It is not expected that a two-year-old will produce the same sounds as a six-year-old.


The Communication Pyramid provides a valuable framework for understanding the sequential development of communication skills in children. As an early intervention speech-language pathologist, I strive to assess and address each child's unique needs, ensuring they have a solid foundation for effective communication.


Remember, every child's journey is unique, and with the right support and guidance, they can reach their full communication potential.


If you are concerned about your child’s language or articulation development, please give us a call. We offer free phone consultations to help determine if a speech language evaluation is appropriate for your child.




"Jessie is such a loving and caring therapist. Her passion for helping her patients and families show every visit. She is open to what works for each patient while being effective and productive. She is responsive and able to adapt to her patient's moods. Speech therapy has never been my son's favorite, and he has been to known to be a bit difficult, but it never slowed Jessie down. She was always so loving and made the sessions fun for him. I would recommend her to anyone looking for a great therapist."  – Belinda

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