Signs & Symptoms
Although signs and symptoms of a speech and/or language disability vary from child to child, the below information are general guides designed to help determine if further consultation or evaluation by a speech and language pathologist is warranted.

Table 1.1 presents characteristics and behaviors of language acquisition expected at various stages of development.  If your child is not meeting these benchmarks, you may want to contact a speech and language pathologist.  However please be reminded that language development varies in children, and it is more significant to observe a progression of skill rather than an exact age of pre-determined mastery. 

In the same way that language develops on a continuum for children, speech articulation does as well.  Although there are several published speech acquisition studies, few of them reflect a consistency with age of phoneme (speech sound) mastery.   Instead of defining a particular age of mastery, consider a speech continuum with earlier speech sounds emerging between the ages one and three (e.g. bilabials– /p/, /b/; nasal sounds – /m/, /n/; alveolar sounds– /t/, /d/ as well as other phonemes including “y,” /h/ and /w/.)  Middle sound development emerging between 3 and 6 including articulation of sounds made in the posterior in the oral cavity - /k/, /g/, “ng” and/or ones that require several articulators working simultaneously including /v/, “ch,” “j.”   Later speech sounds emerging between 5 and 7 may include high frequency sounds such as /s/, /z/ or others including “th,” /l,/ /r/. Source: Derived from Shriberg (1994)

If you are concerned about your child’s articulation development, please do not hesitate to contact Lisa Phillips, M.S. CCC/SLP at for more information.

Table 1.1 Communication Development
The Examiner
By 6 months…
your child should be able to vary volume, pitch and rate; vocalize pleasure and displeasure; squeal with excitement; intone displeasure.
The Experimenter
By 12 months…
your child should be able to follow simple motor instructions if accompanied by visual cue (e.g. “bye, bye”); react to “no;” speak one or more words; mix words and jargon.
The Explorer
By 15 months…
your child should be able to point to clothes, persons, toys and animals named; use jargon and words in conversation; have a four to six word vocabulary.
By 24 months… your child has a 200 to 300 word expressive vocabulary; uses short, incomplete sentences.
The Exhibitor
By Age 3…
your child has a 900-1000 word expressive vocabulary; uses simple sentences with subject/verb; plays with words and sounds; follows 2-step commands; talks about the present.
By Age 4… your child has a 1500 word expressive vocabulary; asks many, many questions; uses increasingly complex sentence forms; recounts story and recent past; has some difficulty answering how and why; relies on word order for interpretation.
By Age 5… your child has an expressive vocabulary of 2,100 – 2,200 words; discusses feelings; understands before and after; follows 3-step commands; has 90% grammar acquisition.
The Expert: School Age Child
By Age 6…
your child has an expressive vocabulary of 2,600 words, receptive of 20,000-24,000 words; has many well-formed sentences of a complex nature.
By Age 8… your child talks a lot; verbalizes ideas and problems readily; communicates thought.
By Age 10… your child spends a lot of time talking and has good comprehension
By Age 12… your child has a 50,000 word receptive vocabulary; constructs adult-like definitions
Source: Derived from Owens, R. E. (2008)