Parents celebrate and remember their children’s first words. It’s one of the most significant milestones that indicate how their child is beginning to grasp the early stages of communication.



Most children may be able to normally and quickly develop and progress through language development. Some may struggle with uttering their first word. Speech delays may occur and there are many factors as to why this happens to some children.  Sometimes speech and language delays may be due to a lack of brain stimulation within daily routines during the formative years and may be closely linked to the child’s environment.  Speech development affects communication, an integral part of a child’s life. Whether verbal or non-verbal, children use communication to function well within their environment and regular daily routines.



Language Milestones Parents Need to be Aware of



According to the book Talk, Play, and Read with Me Mommy by author Jo Ann Gramlich, although language development varies considerably between children due to individual differences even within the same family, children tend to follow a natural progression for speech and language development. It is important for parents to have an awareness of the basic developmental language milestones that their child will acquire along with an understanding of specific strategies that can be implemented during daily routines to help enhance their child’s language skills during the early years. This all begins with the understanding that children under the age of five experience the majority of their learning opportunities during regular daily routines and playtime.  



Here are Some Milestones to be Aware of Before Children Reach the Age of Two



To start, infants start cooing at approximately five months. From their birth to this age, babies should also be able to vocalize different sounds that represent pleasure or displeasure, such as laughing or crying.  Around 6 to 11 months, babies should understand simple and repeated language, such as mama, dada, bye, and no. They can also start stringing sounds together (mmm, ddd, ppp), babble one-syllable words, and may attempt to repeat or mimic sounds produced by people around them at this age. Therefore, family members and caregivers can engage with their infants by saying and stringing babbling sounds together along with producing one and two-word phrases for their baby to hear and imitate. Parents may start to hear their children utter their first complete word at this age.



When a toddler reaches 12 to 17 months, as their understanding of the language increases, they may be reacting to commands and questions within daily routines and play. They may also start to name objects using words.  At 18 to 23 months, their language skills are expanding. Toddlers may have an understanding of up to 150-200 words along with a speaking vocabulary of 10 to 20 words or more.  They may also point to simple body parts, understand simple verbs, and make animal sounds.



By 24 months toddlers may have an expressive vocabulary of 50 to 200 words with an understanding of 300 words or more. They may answer simple questions, speak in two to three-word phrases, and use question inflections to ask for something.  As they continue to build up their language skills, they may also start understanding concepts and usage of pronouns and grammar.



Although each child develops language at a different rate due to individual differences, it is important for parents to have an awareness and understanding of the basic developmental language milestones that their child will acquire.  Developmental milestones are things that most children can do by a certain age and allows parents to know what to expect next.  How your child talks, plays, learns and interacts with others determines important clues about your child’s development.  It acts as a guide to help parents understand what skills are or are not being reached at important expanding periods during the early years.  Even if what parents or caregivers notice is not actually a problem, it would still be to their advantage if they have a general understanding of what to expect as their child acquires language during these crucial growing periods.



The Common Causes of Speech Delay or Disorder



Many factors can account for a child’s speech delay, such as the lack of stimulation and a psychological or genetic cause.



  • The term language delay is used when a child’s speech & language development is following the usual pattern and sequence but is slower than other children that age.  (Expressive language delay, Receptive language delay)
  • A language disorder is used to describe language development which is not following the usual pattern or sequence. (Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Dysarthria. Speech Sound Disorders, Stuttering and Voice)
  • Common speech delays include pronunciation or production of sounds (articulation), phonological delay (difficulty producing sound patterns), and dysfluent speech (stuttering).
  • A voice disorder may be present when there is a problem with pitch, volume, tone, and other qualities of the voice (variations in optimal pitch levels). 
  •  Also, when a person has trouble understanding others this is associated with comprehension abilities (receptive language), and difficulty sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings (expressive language) is linked to communication abilities.
  • There is a difference between the terms delay’ and ‘disorder’. A delay means that a child is developing language in a typical manner, but is doing so more slowly than other children his or her age. A disorder means that a child is not developing language as one would expect, or abnormally.


Jo Ann Gramlich is an award-winning author and speech-language pathologist specializing in helping children with communication disorders in Buffalo, New York. She holds a Master of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology from SUNY Buffalo and has extensive experience in early intervention, preschool, and school settings. Visit her on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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