Language or Speech Delay: when a child’s speech and/or language is developing in the right sequence, but at a slower rate than norms.
Please note that kids develop at different rates and there is a developmental progression to speech development. A sound substitution at 2 years old may be developmentally appropriate but the same error at 4-5 years old would need remediation. We have put together some milestones and red flags for you to investigate. After reading this post, if you have any concerns talk to your pediatrician or a speech pathologist.
Here are some language delay or disorder warning signs – but please note that all kids develop at different rates. Try not to jump to conclusions. If you are concerned, schedule an appointment for an evaluation.
Age 18 months
Does not use six to ten words consistently
Does not follow simple directions
Cannot point to body parts
Does not respond to name (by 9 months)
Age 2 years
Has a vocabulary of less than 50 words
Has a decreased interest in social interactions
Is not combining words into phrases
Does not imitate words or actions
Does not use simple sentences
Strangers have a difficult time understanding what they are saying
Does not play with or talk to other children
Does not ask or answer simple questions
Is not able to tell simple stories
Talks only about the here and now
Puts words in the wrong order in a sentences
Leaves out words or grammar structures in a sentence
Distortions – a phoneme that does not sound quite right. For example Go Shlow down for Go Slow.
Substitutions – when one sound is replaced with another sound. For example, Weady to go for Ready to go.
Note that some errors are developmentally appropriate depending on the child’s age, and thus do not indicate an articulation disorder. We use the Goldman-Fristoe to test articulation. It’s the method we use to determine if a child has a speech delay or a speech disorder.
Ages 18 to 24 months
25 – 50%
Ages 2 to 3
50 – 75%
Ages 4 to 5
75 – 90%
90 – 100%
Tongue protrudes through the front teeth
The /s/ and/or /z/ sounds like a “th”
Developmentally appropriate until age 4 ½
Tongue is in a position close to that of an /l/
The air flows over the sides of the tongue
Not developmentally appropriate at any age
The letter “R”
Mastered around age 7
Many children are able to work on this sound earlier
Types of /r/:
Pre-vocalic: the /r/ starts the word (red, read, etc.)
Cannot produce vowels or the consonant sounds /p/, /b/, /m/, /w/ by age three
Cannot produce /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/, /f/ by age four
Inconsistent errors (“cup” could be: cup, pup, up, cuh)
Is not understood by familiar listeners
You feel like you are consonantly “translating” for your child
Your child becomes frustrated when not understood
Concerned? Ask for help.
If you have concerns about a language or speech delay or concerned about language or speech disorder, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It has been proven time and time again that early intervention is key. Talk to your pediatrician first, but if you have real concerns contact a speech pathologist who has been specifically trained in diagnosing speech and language issues.