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When Should My Child See a Speech Therapist?

There are so many different ways in which young children develop that it can be hard to keep up with everything. On the other hand, when you spend time with other parents and their young children, the differences between them can be quite stark. While this isn’t the best way to judge your child’s development, as all children develop at their own pace, there are certain milestones that they probably should be meeting. This blog will look at the rough stage a child should be at different ages, and offer advice on when you may want to consider taking them to see a speech therapist.

First Year

Speech & language are intrinsically linked to other forms of communication, so while your child may be a long way from talking, you could still observe some red flags early on. The earliest signs of any communication issues is a child who has little to no interaction with other people in their first 3 months. At this stage, you should expect your baby to smile and make eye contact, so an absence of these social cues is worth following up on.

Between 3 and 12 months, the child should be babbling, making gestures, and playing with other people. If this is not the case, it is advisable that you take them to a speech therapist. The sooner you identify any potential problems, the more successfully you will be able to address them.

12-18 Months

At this stage, children are typically expected to start learning their first words. Their vocabulary will be very limited, but they should be saying at least a few words by now. A child at this stage is also expected to use lots of gestures, such as pointing or shaking their head, and should be actively engaging with others.

18-24 Months

Leading up to age two, a child’s vocabulary can be expected to start expanding. They should be learning new words regularly, as well as putting multiple words together. They won’t be forming sentences, but they should have a grasp of the fact that words can be combined to convey a message, such as “My toy”.

While it is perfectly normal for children to mispronounce words up until about 6 years of age, you should be able to understand your child without too much difficulty. If you frequently have a difficult time understanding what they are trying to say, you should take them to see a specialist.

2-4 Years

This is the point at which it should become quite clear whether or not your child is having speaking difficulties. Perhaps the main sign is if they still have a very limited vocabulary and are not stringing multiple words together. Low levels of interaction are another sign, and can come in many forms, such as not pointing at pictures when asked, not answering questions (or answering by repeating the words in the question), using the wrong words frequently, and not understanding instructions or information such as ‘Look over there’ and ‘Your friend is here’. And while mispronunciation is still normal, two common signs of speech problems are mispronouncing vowels, and rarely using consonants.

It can be worrying if it seems as though your child is not developing at the expected pace, but it is crucial not to live in denial. There are countless reasons a child’s development may be slower than usual, and many of these will not impact their quality of life in the long term. But it is always best to address any potential issues as soon as possible, so if you suspect your child may be having difficulty, play it safe and seek professional advice.